- Who: Minnesota Timberwolves (31-29) vs Washington Wizards (27-30)
- When: 7:00 p.m. CT
- Local TV: Bally Sports North (Michael Grady, Jim Petersen and Katie Storm)
- Radio: 830 WCCO-AM
- Line: Wolves -3 | Total: 235.5 (courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook)
KAT & Rudy Bobblehead Night— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) February 16, 2023
Wolves vs. Wizards
7pm CT, @TargetCenterMN
Preview » https://t.co/4JwodcwGSz pic.twitter.com/lfmb7XVCbT
What to Watch For
With a win tonight, the Timberwolves would enter the All-Star break at 32-29 and at worst the sixth seed in the Western Conference. Given how this season started and the takes that spiraled around the Rudy Gobert trade, this would be an excellent outcome before heading into the final 21 games of the season.
Over their last nine games, the Timberwolves have alternated wins and losses. Either the pattern continues, or the Timberwolves are due for a bit of a win streak. Unfortunately, a win likely won’t come easy against the below .500 Wizards. In their last ten matchups, the Timberwolves are only 3-7 against the Wizards, and only one of those wins came at home.
Additionally, the Timberwolves have had a tendency to play to the level of their competition this season. Against teams over .500, the Timberwolves have a respectable 12-10 record. Against teams under .500, though, the Timberwolves are just 19-19. Taking care of business at home and heading into the break three games over .500 in the sixth seed would be a great way for the Timberwolves to build momentum for the stretch run of the season.
The Timberwolves have thrived around the rim this season as they rank sixth in both at-rim shot frequency (37.5%) and accuracy (69.2%). Anthony Edwards has been a force attacking the rim, and Gobert has given the Timberwolves a vertical spacing element they’ve never really had before. Their gameplan shouldn’t be much different against the Wizards, but the Wizards may pose more resistance than they’re used to seeing.
The Wizards do a great job of keeping teams away from the rim as they are allowing only 31.3% of opponent’s shots at the rim (6th in the league). The Wizards also are set on running opponents off the line and forcing them to the mid-range. Opponents are attempting only 33.5% of their shots from three (4th) and 35.2% of their shots in the mid-range (27th) against the Wizards. The Wizards have some big wings in Kyle Kuzma and Deni Avdija who are stout defenders and will be adamant on forcing the Timberwolves into inefficient shots. The Timberwolves can’t settle for the mid-range, though.
Even though the Wizards do a good job of limiting the frequency of opponent’s shots at the rim and from three, they don’t do a good job of defending those areas when shots are actually taken. The Wizards are currently allowing opponents to shoot 67.8% at the rim, which ranks 20th in the league. Additionally, opponents are shooting 36.2% from three, which ranks 13th. As long as the Timberwolves are thoughtful about their shot selection and not too eager to take the first shot that presents itself, they should be able to execute their offense at a high level.
The Importance of Having a True Point Guard
Since Jordan McLaughlin started earning meaningful minutes, his impact has been pretty obvious. Despite Anthony Edwards inevitably trending towards a primary creator, this is a team that still needs that steadying hand of a more traditional point guard. McLaughlin has been doing this with the second unit for a while, but now the starters have Mike Conley to do the same on a higher level.
In the 347 minutes that McLaughlin has played this season, he has an on/off net rating differential of +14.2 (98th percentile). Conley has only played 58 minutes for the Timberwolves, so he doesn’t qualify for percentile rankings on Cleaning the Glass, but he has an on/off net rating differential of +17.9 in those minutes. Additionally, the Timberwolves turnover rate is 3.2% lower with Conley on the floor than off and their defensive rating is 18.2 lower with Conley on than off. Conley and McLaughlin aren’t superstar players, but they have a mature approach to the game that eliminates a lot of the dumb mistakes the Timberwolves are prone to making. Having that steady hand with both the starters and second unit, is already paying dividends. Against a Wizards teams devoid of high-level point guard play, it could be the difference maker.
- Kyle Anderson - Back Spasms
- Rudy Gobert - Right Groin Soreness
- Karl-Anthony Towns - Right Calf Strain
- Will Barton - Not with team
- Isaiah Todd - G-League on assignment