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Game Preview #22: Wolves at Wizards

Minnesota will battle Washington as well as the flu-bug tonight

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images

Game Info

Who: Minnesota Timberwolves (11-10) at Washington Wizards (13-8)

When: 6:00pm CST

TV: Bally Sports North

Radio: 830 WCCO AM Radio

Line: Wizards -3.5

What To Watch For

In my (totally unbiased) opinion, these have been two of the most fun teams in the league this season. I feel this way about Minnesota for obvious reasons, but Washington has been their Eastern Conference equivalent as a somewhat surprising team making a leap up the standings.

What’s probably most surprising is these teams have each done so by playing stellar defense thus far, with Minnesota slotting in at 6th in defense, and Washington sitting 12th. As recently as a week ago Washington was sitting closer to the top-5, but their defense has been a bit leakier over their past few games. That will, no doubt, be something to watch tonight. Which version of Washington’s defense is more likely to show up?

To me, the fun part of the #NewWolves is that most games seem to come down to how Minnesota plays, as opposed to the strength of the opponent. This bunch genuinely believes they can beat any team in the league on any given night, and so far, they’re proving themselves right for the most part.

There are some extenuating circumstances that could make tonight more challenging than usual that we’ll cover in the injury section, but if Minnesota shows up ready to play tonight, they’ll be in good shape. While Washington has a better record, their 0.1 net-rating suggests that they’ve probably been a bit lucky here or there thus far, and have outperformed their Pythagorean win projection.

As far as matchups go, there are some fun, obvious ones in the backcourt, but I’m significantly more excited to watch Jarred Vanderbilt and Montrezl Harrell on the court at the same time. Talk about high-energy players, right? Those two guys go all-out all the time, and it makes them really fun to watch.

On an unrelated note, props to Tommy Sheppard for effectively turning John Wall’s albatross contract into the unit they have now.

Injury Reports

Alright, so here are the extenuating circumstances mentioned earlier. Whatever illness or bug the Timberwolves have in their locker room right now seems to be effecting a large chunk of the roster. Jaden McDaniels and Jarred Vanderbilt missed Monday night’s win over Indiana due to illnes, and Anthony Edwards and Jaylen Nowell were added to the injury report with something similar yesterday and today.

This led to some college football coaching carousel-esque flight tracking today (I kid, I kid), but it seems as if all regulars except for McDaniels and Patrick Beverley should be available tonight. Those are two pretty important players, especially against players as good offensively as Spencer Dinwiddie and Bradley Beal, but this is a good opportunity for Josh Okogie to be a shot in the arm defensively against someone like Beal.

Prediction: While it seems possible or even likely that a few of the Wolves may struggle to find their legs after fighting off a bug, I just can’t pick against this team as underdogs at this point. The Wizards are a well-coached team under Wes Unseld, Jr., and they are deep, but the Wolves have shown that they’ve kept Patrick Beverley’s spirit and grit with them on the floor even while he’s nursing his groin injury. I just can’t pick against Minnesota getting 3.5 points here. Wolves +3.5.