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Game Preview #17: Wolves vs Heat

Minnesota plays host to a depleted Miami team, and they must take adavantage

Minnesota Timberwolves v Miami Heat Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Game Info

What To Watch For

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We’ll go through the full injury report at the bottom, but the gist of tonight is that the Miami Heat are arguably as depleted due to injury as any team in the NBA has been all season. They are so banged up that they had to dress Gabe Vincent last week to meet the NBA’s requirement of having eight “active” players to play a game, even though Vincent was also injured.

So, yeah, this matchup doesn’t have the same juice as your normal Minnesota Timberwolves-Miami Heat matchup.

With that said, the Heat are a tough bunch from top-to-bottom, and the Wolves are going to have to play good ball to come away with a win. They should have learned by now that they are just not good enough yet to simply show up and get a win. The easiest way to make this a stress-free night is to take this opponent seriously and get out to an early lead. If the starters can give the rest of the team some breathing room, it will go a long ways towards earning a victory. The longer the Wolves let their opponent hang around, the more tense the situation at Target Center will become.

Keep Building on Recent Success

While the Wolves did get off to a slower start than many of us expected, they have started to look the part more frequently on this three-game winning streak. I’m not here to tell you the level of competition has been good, but regardless, the team is playing better. They are moving the ball better on offense, at least through the first three quarters of games, and the team is just generally giving the requisite effort to win basketball games.

That has to continue. They cannot get comfortable after three wins against depleted teams, as has been the case in the past. They need to keep their foot on the gas, and continue to work to build chemistry. While the results have been comparatively better throughout the last week or so, this group still has a ways to go to reach the ceiling that they desire.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

What does that look like? Aside from the aforementioned unselfish play offensively, it’s continuing to do the little things. Can Anthony Edwards remained focused defensively? Can D’Angelo Russell continue to strike the proper balance between scoring and distributing? Can this group attack loose balls and make the extra effort plays that swing games? At the very minimum, I can guarantee you Miami is going to do that.

If the answer to all or most of those questions is yes, this could be a fun evening for everyone, which is what this group needs. They have been gifted softer matchups of late, and they need to keep taking advantage. It’s not always going to be like this, but using these games as an avenue to work through some things and continue to build can be critical to their long-term success.

Know Your Personnel

One of the main challenges that comes with playing a depleted roster is that there are often different guys out on the floor that don’t usually play. Obviously, this is better for the Wolves than playing the likes of Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro, the Wolves still need to do their work on the scouting side and lock in to the game plan. Basketball is a weird game, and anything can happen on any given night if you cheat the game. Putting in the work to know your personnel is no different. I trust this coaching staff to be prepared, but it will be on the players to execute tonight.

For instance, though, if Bam Adebayo does play tonight as expected, can this team stay disciplined enough to not just let Miami spam two-man game between Bam and Max Strus? That’s obviously not a long-term recipe for success as your main offensive action, but on a random hot shooting night? It certainly could be. Is this team familiar with Jamal Cain or Haywood Highsmith? Those guys are clearly just fringe NBA players, but you cannot take anything for granted in this league. This team needs to stay focused and ensure that they’re chasing the right guys off the three-point line in order to let their talent take over elsewhere.

You never apologize for wins in this league, but when a once menacing matchup becomes so much lighter, you must do the work to take advantage.

Injury Report

Minnesota Timberwolves

Nothing to report.

Miami Heat

  • Jimmy Butler: OUT — right knee soreness
  • Udonis Haslem: OUT — personal reasons
  • Tyler Herro: OUT — left ankle sprain
  • Victor Oladipo: OUT — left knee tendinosis
  • Duncan Robinson: OUT — left ankle sprain
  • Omer Yurtseven: OUT — left ankle surgery
  • Gabe Vincent: OUT (not expected to play) — left knee elfusion
  • Bam Adebayo: QUESTIONABLE (expected to play) — left knee contusion
  • Dewayne Dedmon: QUESTIONABLE (expected to play) — left foot plantar faciitis