After an ugly loss to the Toronto Raptors in the season opener, Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, and the Minnesota Timberwolves are back home for their first game of the season at Target Center on Saturday night as face old friend Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and the defending Eastern Conference Champion Miami Heat.
- Who: Miami Heat at Minnesota Timberwolves
- When: 7:00 PM CT
- Where: Target Center (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
- TV: Bally Sports North (Michael Grady, Jim Petersen and Katie Storm)
- Radio: Wolves Radio App, KFAN FM 100.3
- Line: Timberwolves -8 | Total: 218.5 (courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook)
UPDATED AS OF 3:00 PM CT FRIDAY
- Jaden McDaniels (left calf strain)
- Jaylen Clark (right achilles tendon rupture rehab)
- Jimmy Butler (rest)
- Haywood Highsmith (knee)
- Josh Richardson (foot)
- Kevin Love (shoulder)
- Caleb Martin (knee)
What To Watch For
Old friend Jimmy Butler comes to town and the question for Wolves fans is “Will he play in the game?” Since joining the Miami Heat, Jimmy has missed two of the four chances to play in front of the Target Center crowd. The Heat have lost all four games at Target Center since acquiring Butler.
The chances Butler sits are increased given Miami’s schedule. The game against the Wolves is the second night of a road back-to-back as the Heat play in Boston on Friday. Jimmy only played in seven of his team’s 14 back-to-backs last season. Given the Heat’s packed schedule early on in the season, their shortened offseason last year due to their run to the NBA Finals, and Jimmy’s tendency to rest, it should not come as a surprise to anyone if Butler does not play in this game.
Whether Butler plays or not, the Target Center crowd will be full of energy and ready to extend the streak of beating the Heat at home. If Butler does play, he will likely be booed early and often.
A huge factor in the Timberwolves’ loss to the Raptors was the lack of transition defense. Toronto scored 34 points in transition as they looked to push the ball any chance they got.
There are a few aspects of the game that caused the Wolves defense to struggle in transition. The first was the turnovers and shot selection of the offense. The Timberwolves turned the ball over 14 times, nine of which were live-ball turnovers leading to 14 points off turnovers for Toronto.
Another reason for the Wolves lack of transition was the shot selection and shot-making of the offense. The Wolves took many low-percentage shots while also missing plenty of their open shots. They shot 34% for the game, leaving plenty of opportunities for Toronto to get out and run.
Finally, the Wolves just need to put more emphasis on getting back on defense. Many times Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns would both crash the offensive glass, leading to the other three defenders in a tough spot.
The Heat should be a much easier team to keep out of transition. Last year the Heat had the second possessions in transition per game, only behind the Phoenix Suns. Compare that to the Raptors who had the fifth most possessions in transition. The Heat are also playing the second of a back-to-back, which may make them less likely to run, given the lowered energy.
Keeping teams out of transition will be a point of emphasis for the Timberwolves all season. It will be interesting to see if the Heat stick to their normal offense and play slow, or if they try to get out and push the ball to exploit the Timberwolves defense. If they do, can the Wolves respond by getting back on defense?
The Timberwolves offense in the first game of the season was not very good to put it nicely. There was too much dribbling and not nearly enough passing and cutting. For all the talk of structure vs. flow in the offseason, the Timberwolves offense didn’t seem to have either on Wednesday.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the offense was particularly an issue on Wednesday when both Towns and Gobert were on the floor. The offense wasn’t great when it was just one of them, but with only Towns, he was able to get post-up opportunities and score efficiently. When it was just Gobert, Mike Conley was able to run pick-and-roll and run a more structured offense that works better for Rudy.
The Wolves did face a good Toronto defense and they will again on Saturday against a Heat team that used their defense last year to get them to the NBA Finals. If the Timberwolves offense looks more like it did in the preseason and less like it did in Toronto, the Wolves will have a good chance to beat a tired Miami Heat team.