What To Watch For
After a disappointing loss at home on Monday against the New Orleans Pelicans, the Minnesota Timberwolves will look to rebound (literally) tonight as they square off against the Milwaukee Bucks in their first road game of the 2021-22 season. Minnesota enters the evening sporting a 2-1 record, which was fueled by a solid dismantling of the Houston Rockets and then a series split with the Zion-less Pelicans.
Because we’re only a couple games into the season, the sample size for basically any major category right now is... well it’s really small. With that said, we knew that one of the smallest teams in the league (both height and weight) would struggle to secure rebounds, but it’s been the offensive stagnation (especially in the half court) that has been the most eye-opening (at least to me):
The Timberwolves are scoring .804 points per play in the halfcourt this season (29th in the NBA).— Dane Moore (@DaneMooreNBA) October 27, 2021
The worst halfcourt offense in the NBA last season (Orlando) scored .887 points per play. The Wolves scored .939 points per play in the halfcourt last season (24th in the NBA).
It should be mentioned that offensive efficiency across the league right now is down — in basically all significant categories — which might simply be a combination of players dusting the rust off and/or some of the new officiating changes that were installed in the offseason. Either way, as it relates to Minnesota, the team simply has not gotten enough from their “Big Three,” which then has had a trickle-down effect for guys like Jaden McDaniels, Naz Reid, and Malik Beasley — all players who have not been able to find a constant rhythm after the first week of play.
The good news here is that we’re only three games into an eighty-two game season, so there’s plenty of time to right the ship on that side of the ball. The bad news? The ship will likely continue to navigate choppy waters tonight as they square off against the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks. Team Giannis will be without a few key starters tonight (more on that in second), which should help even the playing field a little bit for Minnesota, but the Wolves will still need to play a vastly better brand of basketball than they did against the Pelicans if they hope to improve their record to 3-1.
Minnesota @Timberwolves Status Report in advance of tomorrow's game at Milwaukee:— Timberwolves PR (@Twolves_PR) October 26, 2021
McKinley Wright IV - G League Two-Way
The Wolves will enter Milwaukee tonight with a squeaky clean injury report, but will be without the bench services of McKinley Wright IV, who was recently transferred down to the Iowa Wolves to get some serious playing time with the team’s G-League affiliate.
Things aren’t nearly as clean for the home team in tonight’s matchup, as the Bucks will be without a handful of key players against Minnesota:
Injury Update:— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) October 26, 2021
Donte - Left Ankle; Injury recovery
Jrue - Left Ankle; sprain
Brook - Back; soreness
Bobby - Left Hamstring; Strain
Semi - Left Calf; Strain
Brook Lopez is still sidelined due to back soreness, so expect a heavy dose of Giannis at center, with Bobby Portis also getting plenty of minutes at the 5-spot. This could lead to some matchup problems for the Wolves, but also could be one of the few times this year that Minnesota isn’t completely overmatched by size in the front court. If the Wolves can find ways to secure defensive rebounds, they might have a chance at stealing a game on the road against the defending champions.