Wolves (22-24) at Suns (11-37)
It’s never a great thing for a playoff contender to be in a “must-win” situation against the worst team in their conference, but that’s where the Wolves find themselves tonight.
In a league as stacked as the Western Conference, you can’t afford to let poor stretches of play extend. Well, Minnesota is in the midst of a very poor stretch of play. They’re 2-3 over their last 5 games, but even that is giving them too much credit.
The most recent victory over Phoenix was, quite possibly, the least inspiring victory in the NBA this season. That came on the heels of a tough loss in San Antonio and the drubbing in Philadelphia. The Wolves badly need to get back on track tonight.
Thankfully, DeAndre Ayton is doubtful tonight, so Phoenix will likely be without their most talented interior player. Richaun Holmes is also questionable to play tonight, so Phoenix should be short-handed again. Unfortunately, both of those players missed Sunday’s game in Minneapolis, and Minnesota still nearly lost. If the Wolves somehow work their way into the playoffs (unlikely), that shot by Rose will be a major reason why.
I truly don’t understand what it is about the Suns, but the Wolves always seem to look past them and play poorly. That cannot happen tonight. They’re still only 3 games out of the playoffs at the moment, and many of the teams near them in the standings have tough matchups tonight.
If there was ever a night where the Wolves should make up ground in the standings, it is tonight.
So, how do they capitalize on that opportunity tonight? Well, the biggest thing they need is simply for Karl-Anthony Towns to remain on the floor. He has been so, so good since the Butler trade, except for the fact that he can’t stay on the floor. This quote from Zach Lowe summed up Towns entirely as a player in just three sentences:
If Towns can stay on the floor, he should be able to destroy Dragan Bender one-on-one, or show off his improved passing should they double him.
Besides Towns, it’s a pretty simple game plan for Minnesota tonight. They need to contain Devin Booker, first and foremost. With Ayton out, he is really Phoenix’s only reliable form of creation.
What the Wolves really need to do, tonight, is just play to the talent level of their own team. They far too often get lackadaisical against bottom dwellers and end up playing to the level of their competition.
The reality for the Wolves is that they don’t have enough talent to look past any teams in the NBA. They have the pieces to beat these lowly teams, but only if they come ready to play.
Is that an oversimplification of the recent issues? Yes, it certainly is. The switch to Ryan Saunders has not changed much, or at least not in a positive sense. That’s a topic for another day, though.
Bet of the Night
I’m going to try to throw these in here now, especially with the rise of sports betting. I’m in no way saying that you SHOULD make these bets, and I’m not betting them either. It’s just a fun extra thing that I’ll be tracking for the remainder of the season. All lines via Bovada.
The pick: Karl-Anthony Towns over 25.5 points (-125)
With both Ayton and Holmes likely out tonight, Towns will get to feast on Dragan Bender again. He scored 28 points in the first half alone on Sunday. Provided he can stay on the floor tonight, I’d imagine he’ll probably get to at least 26 points. I expect a big scoring night from KAT. They will probably need it, unfortunately.