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Game Preview #64: Wolves at Thunder

Minnesota will look to extend their winning streak as they travel down to Oklahoma City.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Oklahoma City Thunder Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images

Game Info

Who: Minnesota Timberwolves (34-29) at Oklahoma City Thunder (20-42)
When: 7:00pm CST
TV: Bally Sports North
Radio: 830 WCCO AM Radio
Line: Wolves -9.5 (courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook)

What To Watch For

After two days off, the Minnesota Timberwolves are back in action as they kick off their third consecutive back-to-back since returning from the NBA All-Star break last week. The Wolves will square off tonight against the Oklahoma City Thunder before zipping back home to host the Portland Trail Blazers tomorrow (and again at Target Center on Monday), and then a quick rematch against OKC on Wednesday.

When we last left the Timberwolves, they had just successfully grinded out a win against two of the Western Conference’s five All-Star starters (Steph Curry and Andrew Wiggins), which marked the first time all season that Minnesota had won both games of a back-to-back. Tonight kicks off yet another back-to-back for the Wolves, and is also the start of a five-game stretch of very, VERY winnable games that could allow Minnesota to make a run at the teams above them in the standings.

As mentioned in the intro, the next five games for the Wolves are the Thunder, Blazers, Blazers, Thunder, and then Magic. For comparison sake, Denver has the Rockets, Warriors, Pelicans (feisty!), Kings, and then Warriors again. If Minnesota is serious about trying to avoid the play-in tournament altogether, they will likely need to go 4-1 (at minimum) over this next week of games in order to keep pace with both Denver and Dallas.

The big news surrounding the Wolves this week is the health of Anthony Edwards, who will miss his second straight game tonight due to left patella tendinopathy (more on that in a second). With ANT sidelined, Chris Finch will likely lean on guys like Jaylen Nowell and the red-hot Malik Beasley to fill Edwards’ minutes.

As the tweet above highlights, Beasley has been a five alarm fire since February 1, connecting on 48.3% of his 7.25 attempts per game. More importantly, the Wolves were 9-3 in the games that Malik played over that stretch, and if the rumblings are true that Malik Beasley is indeed back, it gives a suddenly short-handed Wolves team a much-needed shot in the arm.

On the other end of the court tonight — the Oklahoma City Thunder. Their current injury report is about as long as a grocery list, but that hasn’t stopped them from still being a feisty opponent, knocking off the Nuggets this past Wednesday IN Denver. OKC should have Shai Gilgeous-Alexander available tonight, and he alone has proven to be enough for the Thunder to upset practically anyone in the league this season. As the current betting line shows (Wolves -9.5), Minnesota is a heavy favorite tonight, but in order for them to keep their winning streak alive, they will need to come out firing tonight and not take their opponent lightly.

Injury Reports

OK... a lot to dissect here.

First and foremost, Anthony Edwards will miss his second consecutive game due to left patella tendinopathy. The public information regarding ANT’s knee is still relatively scarce, but as Chris Finch said earlier in the week, the team would be putting a plan in place to help relieve some of the discomfort Edwards has been dealing with, and having him miss the first night of yet another back-to-back seems like part of the new plan. My uninformed guess here would be that ANT suits up on Saturday (at home) against Portland, but we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to get more clarity on that situation.

As for the remaining injury report — NATE Knight and Leandro Bolmaro are listed as “available,” which finally answers the question I’ve always wondered — “can G-League players play in the G-League and the NBA in the same day?” (Both Knight and Bolmaro played earlier today in Oklahoma City for the Iowa Wolves).

Additionally, McKinley Wright, IV is still recovering from his left UCL injury, and now Jarred Vanderbilt is listed as QUESTIONABLE due to a left quad contusion. Vando has played through a laundry list of injuries this season, so I’d expect to see him later tonight, but if he can’t go, the Wolves front court is down to Karl-Anthony Towns, Naz Reid, Jaden McDaniels, and whatever Nate the Great has left in the tank.

As for OKC... sheesh. The most important names on this list are clearly Josh Giddey and Lu Dort, both of whom will be out tonight against Minnesota. The Thunder will likely suit up a handful of players tonight that you’ve never heard of, but as I mentioned earlier, OKC is coming off a shocking win in Denver, so let’s hope the Wolves don’t sleepwalk into the Paycom Center.

Prediction time: I was originally a little hesitant about Vando being listed as QUESTIONABLE, but after seeing the OKC injury report, how can you NOT take the Wolves at -9.5? I’d imagine we see plenty of Patrick Beverley (as well as Jaden McDaniels) on SGA tonight, and if those two can slow down the talented 23-year old, I’m not really sure how the Thunder will be able to score points. Give me Minnesota, lay the points, and have a great start to your weekend. Wolves 125, Thunder 106.

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