- Who: Minnesota Timberwolves (16-20) vs Detroit Pistons (9-29)
- When: 7:10 PM CT
- Local TV: Bally Sports North (Michael Grady, Jim Petersen and Katie Storm)
- Radio: 830 WCCO-AM
- Line: Wolves -6 | Total: 233 (courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook)
let's ring in the new year with a W.— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) December 31, 2022
Wolves vs. Pistons
7pm CT, @TargetCenterMN
» @BallySportsNOR EXTRA
Preview » https://t.co/qMBDIYKlN3 pic.twitter.com/ebQaSZL2kN
What To Watch For
A pair squads that have lost at least four of their last five and are on the second night of back-to-backs will close out 2022 in Downtown Minneapolis on Saturday night as the Timberwolves host the Pistons, who are 4-16 on the road this season following last night’s 132-118 loss to the Chicago Bulls.
Let’s get to it.
Timberwolves star Anthony Edwards took a nasty spill in last night’s 123-114 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, landing square on his tailbone with just over four minutes left to play in a close game. He remained face-down on the floor for a handful of minutes before being helped to his feet. After realizing he wouldn’t be able to re-enter the game if he didn’t shoot his free throws, Edwards, naturally, walked gingerly to the free throw line, sinked both, and proceeded to score six more points and finish the game.
Given that the Wolves are six-point favorites, Vegas certainly thinks that Edwards (who is questionable with a left hip contusion) will suit up, and I do, too. The 2020 No. 1 overall pick is one of two Timberwolves players (Jaylen Nowell) yet to miss a game this season. If he is unable to go, Minnesota will find themselves in extremely rough shape considering that three-time All-Star Rudy Gobert, who is questionable tonight, missed yesterday’s game with a non-COVID illness. Expect Jaylen Nowell, Wendell Moore Jr. and Matt Ryan to see more playing time if that’s the case, with Nowell and Moore Jr. carrying out increased ball-handling duties.
If both players are able to go in this one, the Timberwolves have zero excuse to lose this game, whether they have Karl-Anthony Towns, Taurean Prince, Jordan McLaughlin, Kyle Anderson or not. Detroit has lost 10 of its last 12 and is also on the second night of a back-to-back in the midst of a five-game road trip. Rookie center Luka Garza called tonight a “must-win game” last night, and it remains so regardless of who’s available.
The Wing Rotation
Assuming Edwards is able to play, I’m interested to see how Timberwolves Head Coach Chris Finch allots minutes on the wing.
Nowell is struggling to find his offensive rhythm as a shooter (42.9/28.6/71.4 splits over his last 10), including just 26.7% on mid-range jumpers, where he has excelled for most of his career.
Ryan played north of 10 minutes in two of the Wolves’ last three games, shooting a combined 4/10 from 3 and corralling seven boards in 31 combined minutes — a huge need for the team right now. Given how much shooting the team needs right now without Towns and Prince, giving Ryan a consistent dose of minutes until one of them returns would be a wise decision, especially if he continues to battle on the glass.
Perhaps the most puzzling, yet revealing rotation decision has been to leave out Moore Jr., one of the team’s first-round rookie selections this summer. Given Nowell’s struggles as a shooter and playmaker of late, Finch has elected to keep Moore Jr., arguably the team’s second-best perimeter defender behind Jaden McDaniels, on the bench for the last three games.
Moore Jr. fits even better in games where Gobert is out. He thrives in a spread-out floor that calls for quick decision-making, pushing the pace off misses and turnovers, and guarding 1-3 in small lineups. Sure, he doesn’t provide the same juice that Nowell does a a scorer, but this team badly needs defense. Minnesota is 19th in defensive rating this month (115.0), 22nd in defensive rebound rate (70.5%) and 25th in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.57); Moore Jr. (6-foot-5, 215 pounds) is an upgrade in all three departments and needs more minutes to develop his game if the team won’t send him to Iowa.
The Wolves have their work cut out for them on the glass tonight. The Pistons are eighth in rebound rate (50.9%) by way of their 11th-ranked offensive rebound rate (29.5%) and eighth-ranked defensive rebound rate (73.6%), per NBA Stats. Detroit may be a terrible team by record, but they have plenty of talent to make this game interesting between No. 5 overall pick Jaden Ivey, Bojan Bogdanovic, Isaiah Stewart, Jalen Duren, Saddiq Bey and Alec Burks.
Duren and Stewart are their two glass-eaters. Duren is averaging 12.5 rebounds over his last 10 games, including five games with at least six offensive rebounds. Stewart has transitioned into playing more 4 this season than last, but still remains a force no matter whether he plays as a 4 or 5. While standing only at 6-foot-8, he is extremely physical at 250 pounds and does a phenomenal job battling inside to help his teammates fly in for rebounds on both ends of the floor.
When one of those two aren’t in the paint giving 110% on the glass, 6-foot-11, 235-pound Marvin Bagley III comes in and holds his own. The former No. 2 overall pick is averaging 9.9 rebounds per 36 minutes and will be a tough matchup for whomever handles the backup center minutes for the Wolves tonight.
Simply put, Minnesota has to rebound. Detroit has out-rebounded or tied their opponent in rebounding in seven of their nine wins and hold an average rebound margin of +4.67 in those wins. Getting Gobert back would help in a major way, but this team is entirely too reliant upon him for rebounds. Edwards, D’Angelo Russell, Austin Rivers, Jaden McDaniels and every other non-center has to rebound more effectively if the Timberwolves want to turn their season around.
We’ll see what their urgency level is tonight, but after losing the rebounding battle 68-36 and allowing 20 offensive rebounds last night, don’t get your hopes up.
- Kyle Anderson (back spasms)
- Anthony Edwards (left hip contusion)
- Rudy Gobert (non-COVID illness)
- Jordan McLaughlin (left calf strain)
- Taurean Prince (right shoulder sublaxation)
- Karl-Anthony Towns (right calf strain)
- Kevin Knox II (right knee contusion)
- Buddy Boeheim (G-League; two-way contract)
- Cade Cunningham (left tibia stress fracture)
- Killian Hayes (suspension)
- Isaiah Livers (right shoulder sprain)
- Jared Rhoden (G-League; two-way contract)