Wolves at Suns
It’s been a rough go of it recently for our beloved Minnesota Timberwolves, but luckily in the NBA there’s always an opportunity to turn things around.
Even with how poorly Minnesota has played of late, they still find themselves firmly in the playoff picture one quarter of the way through the season. I don’t think many expected them to be in that situation.
Now, part of that is because the West is dramatically worse this year than most thought it would be, but nevertheless the Wolves are in the thick of the playoff race.
With that in mind, tonight’s game is incredibly important. Minnesota is currently in a three-way tie for 7th in the conference at 10-12, and they are facing off against Phoenix, one of the teams they are tied with. Having already dropped one game to the Suns this year, if the Wolves are going to have any shot at winning that tiebreaker they need to win tonight.
The Wolves will have to play much better than they did in the first affair with Phoenix if they are to take home a victory tonight. For one, it’s (generally speaking) harder to win on the road. Most importantly, though, Phoenix won the first game without Ricky Rubio, who will be in the lineup tonight.
Wolves fans know what type of a difference Rubio can make for a team, and his presence has been a godsend for Devin Booker this year. Keeping Booker under control is always priority number one against Phoenix, but he requires more attention off-ball when Rubio is in the game. That’s when he’s at his best, and the Wolves’ wing defenders will need to do a good job of getting small and fighting over screens.
On the Timberwolves side of things, it really comes down to defense. On this current four-game losing streak, the Wolves have failed to hold any opponent under 115 points. The Lakers just dropped 142 last night. There is some blame that can go on the scheme, sure, but at some point it becomes a pride thing. If this is really going to be a playoff-level team, they need to put their foot down and get some stops.
Specifically, I’ll be watching for a much better game from Karl-Anthony Towns on that end of the floor. He got cooked for 50 (!!) by Anthony Davis last night. KAT has a much easier matchup tonight in Frank Kaminsky, and it would be a welcome sight for him to bounce back and control the paint.
On the other end of the floor, it’d be nice to see the offense revolve around Towns a bit more than it has recently. He only attempted 16 shots last night, and while that isn’t a horribly low number, it’s still too low for KAT on a team as limited as this one offensively. He also only took 16 attempts against Oklahoma City on a night without Andrew Wiggins. There’s a time and a place for everyone to get their looks, but KAT should be at 20+ FGA each and every night.
I know there’s something coming from us on this in the next few days, but Ryan Saunders has to figure out these rotations. This thread from Jake sums it up pretty well.
I think he is trying to be the nice guy and keep everyone happy when really he just needs to keep the foundation happy. He has spent way too long pandering to the likes of Treveon Graham and Jeff Teague instead of just empowering KAT & AW to be killers.— Jake Paynting (@jakepaynting) December 9, 2019
Anyways, all I’m really looking for tonight is for KAT to bounce back defensively AND be uber-aggressive on the offensive end. Whether or not the start to the season has reshaped your expectations of this team probably determines how much more this game means to you. Personally, with the opportunity to get into the playoffs now an achievable goal, I want this one bad. Maybe I’m just overreacting and grumpy from the recent losing streak, but tonight feels really important for the direction of this season moving forward.
Our blogging buddies are over at Bright Side of the Sun.