Where: American Airlines Center — Dallas, Texas
When: 7:30pm CDT (TV coverage on FSN)
Why: At 9-5, the Wolves are currently off to their best regular season start since 2005-2006.
The Wolves are back in action tonight as they travel to the Lone Star State to take on the struggling Dallas Mavericks. Winners of seven of their last ten, the Wolves will look to keep momentum flowing against a Mavs team (losers of three straight and nine of their last ten) going in the complete opposite direction.
Coming off an impressive, feline-themed birthday party against the San Antonio Spurs, the Wolves continue to develop an identity while navigating a tough early-season schedule that included nine games against playoff teams from last season. While the schedule doesn’t ease up any time soon (the Wolves do have a stretch in December with eight of nine consecutive games against non-playoff teams from last year), it’ll be imperative to start racking up wins against some of the league’s worst teams. *immediately gets flashbacks to Saturday’s loss in Phoenix*
All things considered, the Wolves are playing pretty good basketball right now, in part because of their ability to get to the free throw line. Per our friends at Timberwolves PR, the Wolves have attempted more free throws than their opponent in all 14 games this season and are outscoring their opponent at the line by a league-best margin of +7.14 points per game.
The Wolves currently get 19.2 percent of their points from the charity stripe, ranking 2nd in the league (only behind the Phoenix Suns). For a team still finding it’s rhythm on both ends of the floor, the ability to dominate at the line has been a key x-factor in the Wolves early season success.
Meanwhile, for the Mavs, it seems like their magical 2010-2011 championship season was a century ago, not just six years. With the worst record in the league (yes, even worse than the Chicago Bulls), the Mavs are off to their worst start in more than a decade, are 27th in offensive rating (99.1), 28th in defensive rating (108.6), and are yet to find a way to stop Dirk Nowitski from having more birthdays.
Not all hope is lost though. With the 9th pick in this past summer’s NBA Draft, the Mavs selected human pogo stick Dennis Smith, Jr. from North Carolina State. Through the first month of the regular season, Smith currently ranks 2nd among all rookies in points per game (15.3), 4th in assists (4.7), 8th in steals per game (0.96) and 10th in FG% (40.6%).
At only 19 years old, DSJ is also the 12th youngest player in the NBA. While the short-term future in Dallas seems pretty bleak, the Mavs (and possible 2020 presidential nominee Mark Cuban) hope that the foundation of DSJ, Yogi Ferrell (24 years old) and Harrison Barnes (25 years old) can team up to make the Mavericks great again.
Expected Starting Lineups
PG - Jeff Teague
SG - Jimmy Butler
SF - Andrew Wiggins
PF - Taj Gibson
C - Karl-Anthony Towns
PG - Yogi Ferrell
SG - Dennis Smith, Jr.
SF - Wesley Matthews
PF - Harrison Barnes
C - Dirk Nowitski
Timberwolves: Cole Aldrich (ankle) is PROBABLE, Gorgui Dieng (finger) is QUESTIONABLE, and Justin Patton (foot) is OUT.
Mavericks: Devin Harris (ribs) is QUESTIONABLE, while Seth Curry (leg), Dorian Finney-Smith (knee), and Josh McRoberts (lower extremity) are OUT.
Let’s take a quick look at how the Wolves and Mavericks match up using the Four Factors. Reminder, the Four Factors are effective field goal percentage (eFG%), turnover percentage (TOV%), offensive rebounding percentage (ORB%), and free throw rate (FTR).
Factor / Wolves / Mavericks
eFG% / 51.3% / 49.2%
TOV% / 15.1 / 14.9
ORB% / 25.4% / 19.0%
FTR / .307 / .238
The two factors that clearly stand out here are ORB% and FTR. The Wolves currently rank 6th in the league in both of these factors, showing an early trend of living at the foul line and attacking the offensive glass. Conversely, the Mavericks rank 27th in ORB%, so expect a big night from both Gibson and Towns en route to what should be a relatively easy victory.
Prediction: Wolves 111, Mavericks 98