Wolves (3-3) at Heat (2-3)
6:30 PM CST
Odds: MIN -3
Boy oh boy, what a roller coaster ride these six games have been. After starting 2-1 against three solid Western Conference foes, which led to being ranked fourth (!) in the power rankings over at NBA.com, the Wolves dropped two straight to the Pacers and Pistons. Jimmy Butler sat out both of those games and the team was hot garbage.
After the promising start, it was disconcerting to see the Wolves absolutely fall apart without their new leader. One player cannot be that important to a team that expects to be great and contend for an NBA championship. It’s especially bad when you lose to two lowly Eastern Conference teams.
Wait a minute, hold on a second....
DETROIT IS IN FIRST PLACE IN THE EAST?! THEY JUST BEAT THE WARRIORS?! Maybe the visceral reaction to those two losses without Butler was a bit of an overreaction. The Pistons have won three straight (MIN, @LAC, @GSW) and sit at 5-2 as lords of the East right now. Meanwhile, the Pacers are 3-3 coming off a close victory against San Antonio, and Victor Oladipo is playing like a man possessed by another man trying to prove he is not a bust, but rather, a star.
I am starting to feel better again about this team. With such high roster turnover, bumps in the road are to be expected, even with this much talent. It appears all of their losses have been to respectable opponents. Having said that, I really hope KAT and Andrew Wiggins can step up their play on the defensive side.
Butler proved his worth yet again as he returned to play at home against OKC last Friday. I am not sure how one player can be so integral to an entire defense, but Jimmy is reaching LeBron-level MVP status in terms of making teammates better. They pulled out another close one (119-116), albeit not as exciting as Andrew’s buzzer beater in the first matchup.
Towns was a beast all night, totaling 33 points, 19 rebounds and four blocks.
“Karl was ready. He was locked in,” Butler commented. “When he’s playing like that, he’s arguably one of the best players in the league. We need that every night.”
EMPHASIS MINE. Karl, the team needs beastly performances every night if you didn’t hear. Wait is this a preview or a review?
Minnesota takes on the Miami Heat, the hottest team of last year’s second half. They went 30-11 in their final 41 games. Wow, that’s pretty good, though they still missed the playoffs on the final day of the regular season.
This year, the Heat have stumbled out of the gate a bit and sit at 2-3. Hassan Whiteside has only played in one game, putting up monstrous stats (26 points, 22 rebounds), and luckily for Minnesota he is out yet again with a knee injury. If he would have been able to suit up, I would be concerned for Towns who has been bullied twice by Steven Adams this year on the boards.
Since Whiteside is out, I expect KAT to get 40 points and 40 rebounds to one-up (ten-up?) Kevin Love’s 30-30 game. Not really, but he needs to take advantage of these matchups. He will go against James Johnson (undersized), Bam Adebayo (rookie) and Kelly Olynyk (decent, I guess).
At this time I’d like to point out that if I am wrong, KAT is reportedly dealing with an illness so we’ve already got our excuse lined up! The report was given to me by John Meyer (#sources). He is still expected to play and let’s hope it is not the same thing Jimmy had.
The Heat’s three losses have been against quality opponents in Orlando (?), San Antonio, and Boston. They aren’t a bad team. However, real estate prices on Waiter’s Island are plummeting as the guard has struggled after being the heart and soul of the team’s resurgence last year. He’s coming off a five point performance against the Celtics. On paper, it appears the Wolves matchup pretty well with Miami.
Projected Starting Lineups
Injuries: Justin Patton (Foot)
Injuries: Hassan Whiteside (knee)
Prediction: Wolves 115, Heat 98
KAT should feast on this team without Whiteside in the lineup. Can this be the Wolves’ first blowout victory?