The Minnesota Timberwolves (22-35) vs. The Dallas Mavericks (22-34)
Target Center (Minneapolis)
7:00 pm CST (Fox Sports North)
Since we last gathered for a Timberwolves game nine days ago, quite a bit has happened. Most notably, Jim Petersen (Fox Sports North broadcaster and an emblem of the Wolves fan community) turned 55 years old. Congrats on the double-nickel, Jim Pete! A day later was the birthday of another emblem of the Wolves community, Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins has broken up the core of three 21 years as his age now matches his jersey number. Don’t worry, he’s still young— 342 days younger than rookie Kris Dunn!
Outside of birthdays, a few other things happened around the league. A team that was active at the deadline is tonight’s opponent, the Dallas Mavericks. They added a player who is also younger than Kris Dunn, Nerlens Noel.
Noel has been processing through his development in Philadelphia for three and a half years, but with two other young centers the Sixers showed Noel the door in exchange for what will amount to Justin Anderson and two second-round picks. Noel will anchor a Dallas defense that has been void of a legitimate center ever since Deandre Jordan backed out of signing with Dallas in the 2015 off-season. At twenty-two years old, Noel is already a bonafide rim defender.
This will bring a new look for Dallas. If you remember the Wolves two games against Mavs this season, their bigs had no answer for Karl-Anthony Towns. His speed, athleticism, and floor-spacing took many victims. One of which was Andrew Bogut on the perimeter.
Towns drew matchups from Harrison Barnes (too small) and even Dirk Nowitzki (too old), who presented minimal resistance. Dallas threw their 7’2” Tunisian center Salah Mejri (too bad) at Towns and things did not end well. Mejri has played 28 minutes against the Wolves this season. In those minutes, Mejri picked up seven fouls as Towns punished him off the dribble consistently.
Good news! Mejri will receive heavy minutes tonight as Noel will not be playing. Dallas will save Noel’s debut for a home game tomorrow night against the even more formidable frontcourt pairing of Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins.
Expected Starting Lineups
PG - Ricky Rubio
SG - Brandon Rush
SF - Andrew Wiggins
PF - Gorgui Dieng
C - Karl-Anthony Towns
Injuries: Nikola Pekovic (his head fell off, he was getting pretty old), Zach Lavine (knee), Adreian Payne (illness)
PG- Yogi Ferrell
SG- Seth Curry
SF- Wesley Matthews
PF- Harrison Barnes
C- Dirk Nowitzki
Injuries: J.J. Barea OUT (calf)
As we always do in game previews, let’s take a look at how the Wolves and Mavs 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 / Mavs
eFG% / 51.1 (15th) / 50.7 (17th)
TOV% / 14.6 (21st) / 12.4 (2nd)
ORB% / 26.8 (5th) / 18.2 (30th)
FTR / .286 (10th) / .220 (29th)
Dallas’ rotation is in flux after trading for Noel, trading away Andrew Bogut and Justin Anderson, and also waiving Deron Williams. Yogi Ferrell will be the only healthy point guard without Williams and an injured J.J. Barea. Devin Harris will also, likely, receive some ball handling duties.
Before the All-Star break, the Mavs had been rolling with a very small lineup that featured Nowitzki at center and Barnes at power forward. This, again, presents an excellent opportunity for Towns. Dallas will have Nowitzki, Barnes, Dwight Powell, and Mejri take turns attempting to slow the Wolves big man.
Don’t sleep on a big Gorgui Dieng game either. Dieng’s best game of the season came in the second matchup against the Mavs where he scored a team high 21 points on 10 of 12 shooting.
Amidst the Mavs transition from the pre-Noel era, I’m calling for a career-high 26 points from Dieng as Towns lets Gorgui do his thing. (You know, pump fake and stuff) The Wolves should completely dominate the boards with Towns and Dieng. I’m also looking for a heavier load of minutes for Tyus Jones who can easily be the second guard alongside Ricky Rubio or Kris Dunn against the miniature Ferrell-Curry backcourt.
PREDICTION: Wolves 100 Mavs 90