Wolves (14-18) at Thunder (21-10)
In a season full of ups and downs, Minnesota currently finds themselves in a very deep valley. Sitting at just 1-6 in their last 7 games, the Wolves sure could use a momentum building win. They have an opportunity to get a win like that tonight at Oklahoma City, against a Thunder team that’s tied with Denver for the top spot in the Western Conference.
Minnesota will be without Jeff Teague again, and Derrick Rose is a game-time decision. This leaves Tyus Jones as the lone healthy point guard on the roster. He should get a ton of minutes tonight with an opportunity to make a case for more playing time.
If Rose is out, it’ll be interesting to see how Minnesota decides to matchup with Russell Westbrook. Tyus is intelligent and crafty as a defender, but I don’t know that he has the athleticism to hang with Westbrook. If they go away from Tyus on Westbrook, Andrew Wiggins is most likely to get the call on Russ.
While Wiggins surely has his short comings as a defender, I think I like this matchup for Minnesota the best because of his length. This year, Westbrook has been most dangerous to teams as a passer. He’s leading the league in assists, and averaging the lowest amount of points per game since his rookie season. If engaged (that’s a big if), Wiggins’ length could help bother Russ’ passing.
Robert Covington is absolutely not an option to guard Russ tonight, and that’s because he’s going to get a heavy dose of MVP-candidate Paul George.
There may not be a more divisive player around the league than Russell Westbrook, but even the largest Westbrook supporters (myself included) have to admit that PG13 has been the best player on the Thunder this year. George is one of several front-runners for Defensive Player of the Year, while also averaging a career high 26.1 points per game on 45/39 shooting splits. He is currently absolutely scorching, going for over 40 points in each of the Thunder’s past two games.
The single aspect of the game that worries me the most about this game is Steven Adams pounding the offensive glass. He is such a mountain of a man he is impossible to move. It’s going to take a team effort to keep him off the glass.
Personally, I’d rather just see Towns try to face up Adams and let the rest of the Wolves go get the board. The problem is that none of Towns’ teammates are particularly good rebounders. I’m not exactly sure what the perfect plan of attack is against Adams. I’m relatively concerned that KAT is going to get himself in foul trouble trying to get in position.
Most of the attention with OKC revolves around the three players mentioned so far, but I’m really looking forward to watching Jerami Grant play tonight. He’s a phenomenal, athletic role player who plays good defense, rebounds his position, and hits open threes. His ascension into the starting lineup in place of Carmelo Anthony is the biggest difference between this years team and last years OKC team.
If there’s anything that’s going in Minnesota’s favor going into tonight’s contest, it’s that Oklahoma City played a tough, physical game last night in Utah. Outside of that, there’s not a whole lot to be super optimistic about in this game tonight. Considering how weird and wacky the Wolves’ season has been thus far, they’ll probably end up pulling this one out anyways.
Check out our friends over at Welcome to Loud City for a Thunder perspective.