- Who: Minnesota Timberwolves (1-0) vs Dallas Mavericks (0-1)
- When: 11 AM CT
- Where: Etihad Arena (Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates)
- TV: NBA TV
- Radio: Wolves Radio App
- Line: Timberwolves -1.5 | Total: 221.5 (courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook)
Updated as of 10:15 AM CT
- Jaylen Clark (right achilles tendon rupture rehab)
- Jaden McDaniels (left calf soreness)
- Anthony Edwards (left ankle sprain)
- Seth Curry (illness)
- Kyrie Irving (left groin soreness)
- Markieff Morris (left ankle soreness)
- Tim Hardaway Jr. (right hamstring soreness)
- Derrick Jones Jr. (illness)
- Mike Miles Jr. (illness)
What To Watch For
Who would’ve thought that a bit of structure would boost the Timberwolves’ offense like that? All summer, the buzz has been finding the balance between playing free flowing offense and organized offensive sets. In their first game, the Wolves found that balance.
For most of the game, Head Coach Chris Finch had his team consistently running a structured offense that paid dividends. It was some of the best ball movement from them in a while, and players consistently set each other up for open shots. Their sets forced the defense to actively rotate and really exploited the youth and lack of chemistry on this revamped Mavericks team.
In game two, we should see even more implementation of this. It will be especially important to get reps with Anthony Edwards in these sets. Edwards has historically been more of a go-with-the-flow player where the ball tends to stick a little more, but that wasn’t necessarily the case during the FIBA World Cup this summer. There, Edwards was much more decisive about moving the ball and creating for others. This should be a tremendous opportunity for him to continue to build on that development and build an extraordinarily dynamic offense. With Edwards operating as the lead initiator in similar sets that Minnesota ran in Game 1, the Timberwolves’ offense could take another massive leap forward.
Big Man Movement
One of the biggest issues with the offense last season was how compact the paint got with the two big men on the court. After one preseason game, that doesn’t seem to be an issue. One of the main reasons for that was how active and mobile all of Rudy Gobert, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Naz Reid were.
Throughout the entire game, all three of them were really active with their cutting. There was a sense of spacing and timing that wasn’t there at all last season. Gobert was significantly more effective probing the baseline and finding open pockets around the rim to receive dump off passes. Towns actively cut from the perimeter to exploit double teams. Reid hunted shots in all three levels whether he was on or off the ball.
This Mavericks team isn’t a big one, and the Timberwolves should yet again exploit the size mismatch. One of the best ways that they proved to do that is with constant activity from their bigs. This movement creates mismatches that they can exploit off the drive or in the post, generates ample rebounding opportunities, and creates a safety net for teammates to dump off to out of drives. If the Wolves centers show a similar level of activity, they should yet again dominate the points in the paint.
Battle on the Boards
Minnesota finally maximized their size advantage as they dominated the rebounding category 56-42 and allowed only seven offensive rebounds. The size disparity between these two teams is rather astonishing. Bringing in a bench lineup where the smallest player on the court is 6-foot-5 is a pleasant change of scenery.
It wasn’t just that the Wolves were big, but more so that they actively hunted rebounds. There was a sense of urgency and pride in securing rebounds. There was effort throughout the roster and the wings and guards were a big difference maker. In game two, this should be the norm yet again. With their smaller lineup and emphasis on spacing, Dereck Lively II is likely the only threat of offensive rebounding. The Timberwolves also only had 11 offensive rebounds, and that number could easily be higher in game two. With the Mavericks’ lack of size, there should be opportunities for Jaden McDaniels, Gobert, or Towns to hunt offensive rebounds a little more. Ensuring that they’re back on defense in transition is crucial given their ineffectiveness in recent seasons, but this feels like a matchup inefficiency that they could readily exploit. Outside of flukes, the Timberwolves should yet again control this game through their dominant rebounding.