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Game Preview #14: Wolves at Cavaliers

The Wolves aim to end a three-game skid while facing the Cavaliers for the first time this season

Los Angeles Lakers v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

Game Info

What to Watch for

First Look at Cleveland

Sunday’s contest is the first matchup between the Wolves and Cavaliers this season, with Minnesota getting the first opportunity to take on the new-look Cleveland squad this year. The two teams face off twice this season, with the second and final game taking place Jan. 14 at Target Center.

Both the Wolves and Cavaliers made splashes in the trade market this offseason, both acquiring players from the Utah Jazz. With Rudy Gobert landing in Minnesota, Donovan Mitchell was traded to Cleveland to lead the Cavaliers. The two former teammates will face off for the first time Sunday since those trades took place, assuming Mitchell — who is questionable with a right ankle injury — is able to play for Cleveland.

The Wolves will have their hands full on the road while dealing with a Cavaliers squad that has one of the top offenses in the NBA. Cleveland ranks ninth in the league averaging 115.3 points per game, although Minnesota is right behind in 13th with 113.2 points per contest. Defensively, the Cavaliers are allowing the seventh-lowest mark in the NBA giving up 107.2 points per game, while the Wolves rank 22nd giving up 115.6 points on average.

Both Minnesota and Cleveland have struggled as of late, with each team riding three-game losing streaks. The Wolves sit in 13th place in the Western Conference and are 3-7 over their last 10 games, while the Cavaliers are in third place in the Eastern Conference having gone 7-3 over the last 10 games.

Phoenix Suns v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

Minnesota will have a tall task of entering Rocket Mortgage Arena in Cleveland to steal a game on the road, coming into the game 1-3 on the road with the Cavaliers yet to lose on their home court with a 4-0 record.

Just Win Baby

In Sunday’s game, both teams are in need of a win, providing a sense of urgency on both teams. Minnesota is quickly sliding down the Western Conference standings while looking all out of sorts to this point in the season. Not only are the Wolves on a three-game skid, but they are 1-6 over the last seven games.

The Wolves have a chance to pull off a victory in Cleveland to begin the process of righting the ship of a rough start, needing a win or two on the current four-game Eastern Conference-heavy road trip that will conclude in Orlando on Wednesday and Philadelphia on Saturday.

Minnesota knows it hasn’t yet lived up to expectations set out at the begging of the year, and the wins need to start following rather than racking up moral victories that end up being logged as losses in the record books. There’s no more time to waste or moral victories to rack up, it’s time to just win.

If Mitchell is out for Cleveland in the game, as well as Jarrett Allen who is questionable with an ankle injury, this Cavaliers team could look a bit less daunting and Minnesota could take advantage of that with a relatively healthy roster to steal its second road win of the year. If those two players do play for Cleveland, the Cavaliers could give the Wolves all they can handle Sunday evening.

Injury Report

Minnesota Timberwolves

  • Josh Minott: OUT — G-League assignment
  • Wendell Moore, Jr.: OUT — G-League assignment
  • Naz Reid: OUT — Illness

Cleveland Cavaliers

  • Donovan Mitchell: QUESTIONABLE — Right ankle
  • Jarrett Allen: QUESTIONABLE — Left ankle
  • Dean Wade: QUESTIONABLE — Right knee
  • Ricky Rubio: OUT — Left ACL
  • Dylan Windler: OUT — Right ankle