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Game Preview #54: Bulls at Wolves

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April 11 marks a special day in Minnesota basketball history.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

April 11.

Does that date have any specific meaning to you? If not, let’s take a walk down memory lane:

Is Maya Moore is the most successful athlete to have ever played for Minnesota professionally? If you’re skeptical of this, just take a look at the facts: In just 8 seasons with the Lynx, she’s earned 6 all-star appearances, 3 all-star game MVPs, 1 MVP, 4 championships, 1 Finals MVP, among many other honors. She’s my GOAT.

Speaking of GOATs...

Maybe your GOAT is none other than Corey Brewer. 2x NCAA champion, 1x NBA champion, and literally owns a goat (RIP). I remember exactly where I was during this game where he dropped a then franchise record 51 points in a down-to-the-wire win against the Houston Rockets. One of my favorite Timberwolves memories happened after the game, when Ricky Rubio video-bombed his postgame interview and we got the “My man, Rubioooo!!!” soundbite. Turbo will forever be a hero in Minnesota basketball lore.

2017 seems so far ago. Gone were the days of the snarling wolf, and in came the howling wolf. I remember being mildly pleased with the new logo, although the green spot threw me off. We had no idea that the “Young Wolves” were about to be completely blown up in the coming months. It was weirdly serendipitous with my life, as I was picking up and moving my 25+ years of existence from Northern California and moving it to warmer waters here in Southern California.

I was an emotional wreck during and after this game. From Taj Gibson’s clutch stop, to Wigs icing the game with TWO made free throws, I couldn’t believe that the 13-year playoff drought was over. I was certain this was going to be the 1st of many consecutive playoff runs for us. But..... yeah.

Let’s just remember the good times.


Game Info

Who: Chicago Bulls (22-29) at Minnesota Timberwolves (13-40)
When: 7:00 pm CST
TV: Bally Sports North PLUS
Radio: 830 WCCO AM Radio


What To Watch For

  • The Bulls are currently 10th in the Eastern Conference standings and in the midst of the tight playoff race. After reshuffling their roster by essentially swapping Otto Porter Jr. and Wendell Carter Jr. for Nikola Vucevic, they’ve gone just 3-5. That short span of games included an initial 4-game losing streak, followed by a 3-game winning streak which was just broken Friday. Their most recent game was a loss to the Atlanta Hawks, 120-109, where our old friend, Zach LaVine, dropped a career-high 50 points on 31 FGA. That effort was good for a -3, third best on his team. I am very much looking forward to him dumping 51 points on the Wolves (Who just gave up 53 to Jayson Tatum) in honor of Corey Brewer this evening.
  • The Wolves are the first team to reach 40 wins this season! Wait... no, sorry I’m being told that’s inaccurate. Oh, the first to 40 losses. Well, depending on if the blood in your veins run icy optimistic, or molten hot pessimistic, our 40th loss against the Boston Celtics may shape how you think of Minnesota’s chances tonight. Did D’Angelo Russell have a clutch game where he proved he’s the closer that the Wolves desperately need? Or did he ball hog his way to a lucky shot that sent the game to overtime, where Anthony Edwards continued to get iced out for the latter portion of the contest? I’ll be curious to watch the development of how Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Lo, and Ant continue sharing the ball.
  • The Bulls are currently 15th in ORTG and 17th in DRTG compared the Wolves inferior 26th and 27th respective rankings. Chicago is also leading the NBA in defensive rebounding % (79.9) which spells doom for the Wolves, who are a notoriously bad rebounding team (76.2). If you also consider the fact that Vucevic, the 3rd best rebounder in the NBA, has only played 8 games for the Bulls, the Wolves will be in for a long night as they’re likely to get cleaned on the glass.
  • Josh Okogie, contrary to my early game criticism on Friday, had one of his best games of the season. He had an efficient 16 points and added 4 steals, but was unable to limit Jaylen Brown and/or Jayson Tatum down the stretch. He’s going to have his work cut out for him again as he’ll be tasked with chasing around LaVine all night. However, I think this matchup might be a little more favorable than Friday’s, as LaVine doesn’t have quite the same strength and size that Brown and Tatum has, nor the same running mates.
  • Although Jaden McDaniels had his moments last night, he too was unable to truly limit Tatum. Meanwhile Jarrett Culver hardly saw the floor again, Jake Layman didn’t leave the bench, and the Wolves were once again left looking for strong wing minutes behind the starters. Jaylen Nowell is listed as questionable as he continues to recover from his right leg injury so hopefully we’ll get some good news as we get closer to the tip. (UPDATE: Nowell is a go tonight, although he’s likely to have restrictions)
  • As a reminder of what happened in their previous game against the Bulls, the Wolves lost 126-133 in overtime. Jarred Vanderbilt (Remember him?) had a strong game, KAT had a chance to put the Wolves up late before fouling out at the end of regulation, and Ricky Rubio was bailed out duped the refs into 3 free throws to send the game to added time. The Bulls were feasting in the paint all night (76) which helped them to 59.1 FG% on the night. Now toss in Vucevic and you have yourselves a real problem defending the post tonight. Will the Wolves continue to bleed points in the paint tonight, or will this be yet another “Man, it’s just bad luck that the Wolves opponent just HAPPENS to make all their 3-pointers!” game?

Injury Report


Predictions

  • D’Lo has a rough night shooting the ball, going 7 for 25, and prompting Timberwolves Twitter/Canis Hoopus to continue the 370 day civil war of D’Lo Stans vs. D’Lo Haters.
  • Ant gets loose for a huge posterizing dunk on Vuc (again) igniting some fun (but painful) memories of Zach’s best dunks in a Wolves uniform.
  • LaVine dupes JO into early foul trouble, en route to scoring a new career-high of 57, besting KAT’s personal and franchise-high, 56, at Target Center. We get multiple tweets by various media personalities with the very creative: “THE WOLVES RLY TRADED LAVINE FOR A 1-YEAR RENTAL OF JIMMY BUTLER LMABABOABOOOO”
  • F*ck it, KAT sets a new Wolves record by besting Kevin Love’s previous 30-30 feat by posting a 33 point, 33 rebound effort. He hits the game-winning three pointer and the Wolves win 135-133.