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Preseason Game #3: Wolves at Mavericks

What to watch for in Minnesota’s preseason finale

Dallas Mavericks v Milwaukee Bucks

Timberwolves at Mavericks

DAL (-7), O/U 224.5

7:30pm CST

FS North, WCCO 830

The final tune-up for Minnesota has arrived, with the Timberwolves just under a week from their regular season opener. The Wolves have traveled to Dallas to square off with Luka Doncic and his high-powered Mavs squad this evening, in a matchup where both teams will be looking to get a final look at how the roster looks before the games start to count.

For Dallas, we could dig into the nitty gritty, but the reality for them is they will go as far as Luka Doncic will take them. Rick Carlisle will try to find the right balance of conditioning and rest for Doncic. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Luka and the rest of the starters to play somewhere between 25-30 minutes, considering how much time off each team has between now and the first regular season game.

If that happens, I’d expect Dallas to score a whooooole lot of points. Part of it is that I expect the Wolves to once again be bad on defense, but really it’s just that Luka is brilliant. Minnesota will no doubt look to have Josh Okogie and Jarrett Culver matched up on Doncic throughout most of the game, and they can probably do an okay job at least making it difficult, but it probably won’t matter. Luka is about as good as they come in the PnR, and frankly, I’m just going to enjoy watching him manipulate a defense with his passing. It’s a preseason game, after all.

It wouldn’t hurt to get an extended look at Minnesota and DeLeSalle native Tyrell Terry tonight, either.

On Minnesota’s end, I think eyes turn to Ricky Rubio and Jarrett Culver. With D’Angelo Russell out tonight, we should see a lot of Rubio tonight, which I suspect will lead to a more orderly offense and more tolerable defense. Russell surely gives them a higher ceiling, but for the sake of my sanity I am looking forward to just enjoying Ricky running the show tonight.

For Culver, it’s really about just building on his first two preseason games, where he looked much better. He looks so much more comfortable early on, and it’s really encouraging. If he looks confident and in control again tonight, the hype train may just leave the station leading into the regular season. I am at least somewhat buying into the idea that Culver could find himself in closing lineups as the season progresses. The fully realized version of Jarrett Culver helps to solve several of the most glaring issues the Wolves are faced with at the moment, so rest assured we will all be pulling for him.

Lastly, this should be the last opportunity for the forward rotation to clear itself up, especially as far as who plays next to Karl-Anthony Towns. It’s been Jake Layman starting with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson looking like the strongest option off the bench, so far. This would be a good time for Hollywood Hernangomez to hit a few shots heading into the regular season.

Overall, I really just want Minnesota to look more organized. They’ve looked discombobulated through two preseason games, not offering much reason for optimism. Hopefully, they’ve started to iron out the kinks and can give us something to look forward to as the regular season awaits. Either way, I’m going to do my best to just enjoy this one as a basketball viewer before the real games start to count. With that in mind...

Winner of the Day

I included a little bit of gambling fun in my previews during the 2018-19 season as a way to stay entertained during a lost season, and I’m bringing it back this year. Some nights it’ll be a simple spread or over/under pick, some nights it’ll be a fun player prop. Who really knows. On that note, what better way to get back into the swing of things than by making a pick on a meaningless preseason game?

As always, this is merely for fun, and is in no way a recommendation on what to gamble on, or to gamble at all. (If you have a gambling problem, call 1-800-GAMBLER).

The Pick: Over 224.5

A wise man once told me “Life’s too short to bet the under.” I cannot think of a more true statement for a preseason game between two offensively capable, and defensively challenged teams. I have no idea how much key players like Luka Doncic and Karl-Anthony Towns will play, but even the reserves should be able to fill it up. As a Timberwolves fan/viewer, that won’t inspire much confidence, but as someone who craves any form of entertainment during the pandemic, I’m here for it.

As always, if this wins, I’m a genius. If it loses, well, it’s the preseason for me too. I’ll keep a running tally once the regular season starts, so you’ll all have plenty of opportunities to remind me how dumb I am.

Projected Lineups

Dallas Mavericks

Luka Doncic

Josh Richardson

Tim Hardaway Jr.

Dorian Finney-Smith

Dwight Powell

Minnesota Timberwolves

Ricky Rubio

Malik Beasley

Josh Okogie

Jake Layman

Karl-Anthony Towns