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Game Preview #42: Wolves vs. Thunder

The two Western Conference powerhouses showdown for round three. The battle for the number one seed, and Northwest Division champs, rages on.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Oklahoma City Thunder Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

One of the Minnesota’s top five rivals will be coming to Target Center for a Saturday evening showdown. It will be another showcase between two of the league’s championship contenders that you will not want to miss.


Game Info

  • Who: Oklahoma City Thunder (28-13) at Minnesota Timberwolves (30-11)
  • When: Saturday, January 20 at 7:00 PM CT
  • Where: Target Center — Minneapolis, MN
  • TV: Bally Sports North (Michael Grady, Jim Petersen and Lea B. Olsen)
  • Radio: Wolves Radio App, KFAN FM 100.3
  • Line: Wolves -3, Total: 229.5 (courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook)

Injury Report

Updated as of Saturday 1/20 at 6:30 PM CT.

Minnesota

OUT:

  • Jaylen Clark (right achilles tendon rupture rehab)
  • Leonard Miller (G League assignment)
  • Josh Minott (G League assignment)

Oklahoma City

AVAILABLE:

  • Lu Dort (illness)

OUT:

  • Ousmane Dieng (G League assignment)

The Numbers

Minnesota

OFFRTG: 114.4 (19th)
DEFRTG: 108.6 (1st)
NETRTG: +5.8 (4th)

eFG%: 56.2 (7th)
FTr: .284 (6th)
TOV%: 15.4 (28th)
OREB%: 27.8 (23rd)

PACE: 98.60 (22nd)
FBPS: 12.8 (24th)
2nd PTS: 12.9 (25th)
PITP: 51.4 (13th)

Oklahoma City

OFFRTG: 120.1 (4th)
DEFRTG: 112.0 (6th)
NETRTG: +8.1 (3rd)

eFG%: 58.0 (2nd)
FTr: .251 (17th)
TOV%: 12.4 (3rd)
OREB%: 24.7 (28th)

PACE: 101.28 (6th)
FBPS: 16.1 (6th)
2nd PTS: 10.8 (29th)
PITP: 54.4 (5th)

What To Watch For

Oklahoma City Thunder v Utah Jazz Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

Can Anyone Slowdown Shai?

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is on a mission to disrupt the Nikola Jokić/Joel Embiid MVP discourse. His traditional and advanced numbers stick out in a good way and his consistent performance night-in and night-out match the statistics. He’s scored 20 or more points in 37 of 40 games this season, including an average of 33.5 across his two games against the number one defense in the NBA. The Wolves have no shortage of outstanding individual and team defenders, but they are just one of 29 teams in the league who haven’t been able to solve the SGA puzzle. It won’t be a matter of whether or not they can stop him, but how much they can slow him down.

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

Not Falling Into a Footrace

On November 28th, the Wolves (without Jaden McDaniels) scored 106 points in a narrow three-point victory against the Thunder. On December 26th, the Wolves scored 106 points in a blowout loss against the Thunder. It was obvious that the slow, muddy pace in their first matchup was preferable to Minnesota’s defensive style. In the first match, both teams shot under 43% from the field and the Wolves survived despite committing 11 more turnovers than their opponent. In the loss, both teams shot over 45% from the field (44%+ from perimeter). Minnesota clearly couldn’t hang with Oklahoma City, as all five Thunder starters scored in double-digits. Coach Finch will need to make sure his team will need to limit their 20.5 turnover average against the Thunder and: SLOW. IT. DOWN.


Predictions

  • Chet Holmgren and Rudy Gobert get into a harmless little fracas during the game, but end up exchanging jerseys after the game.
  • Wolves earn a statement 128-110 victory.