Minnesota Timberwolves @ Oklahoma City Thunder
Minnesota (1-3, 0-2 on road) Oklahoma City (4-1, 2-0 at home)
Minnesota goes on the road to face the vaunted Oklahoma City Thunder. With Russell Westbrook and bonafide sharpshooter Kevin Dur……wait nevermind.
Minnesota goes on the road to face the one-man-wrecking-crew of Russell Westbrook and friends. There, better?
It has been a tough start for Minnesota. With an opening night loss to Memphis, after being up 20. Followed by a loss in Sac-town, while being up 17. A return rout of Memphis for a home win, and then again, while being up 16, eventually losing to Denver, at home. The trend here? Minnesota plays inspired team basketball for three quarters. If only there were three quarters in a game, Minnesota would be undefeated. But they’re not. And they have problems. First and foremost, if you’ve noticed a trend, is finishing games. They take leads into the second half, only to give them back to the opponent. Credit Memphis, Denver and Sacramento for fighting back, but we all know Thibs has lost a few years of his life based off each blown double-digit lead the Wolves sacrifice.
Oklahoma City, has finished games with more points than their opponents, which, barring the one loss, a rout for that matter, at the hand to the Golden State Warriors on the second night of a back-to-back, has led to a 4-1 record. OKC has dispatched Philadelphia, Phoenix and Los Angeles (Lakers and Clippers) to reach this early cushion.
Yet, both teams are coming off of losses, so, at the end of tonight, one of them will have a winning streak.
OKC and MIN meet four times this year. This is the first meeting.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
1- Russell Westbrook vs the Wolves
Everyone knows that a heavy dose of the catalyst which starts every and all OKC possessions will be striking the Wolves early, often, and without remorse. Look to see how 1- Kris Dunn guards the perennial All-Star PG. 2- How many times Kris Dunn gets schooled by said All-Star 3- If Kris Dunn can defend the pick and roll, of which he be served on most half-court possessions. It all starts with the 1, can Dunn prove himself in the most difficult of matchups early in his career.
2- Karl Anthony-Towns, and Andrew Wiggins against Russell Westbrook’s friends
Oklahoma City, conveniently, has a pretty solid team around Westbrook. Steven Adams is a presence at Center and has really improved in his time in the league. KAT will have a tough defensive presence to work around. He can’t just slip by Adams either, it should amount to a good matchup. Towns can defend Adams, but the big Kiwi has an improved game offensively. Towns will have to show him who’s boss. Wiggins, will be playing against a very good defender. Andre Roberson. Andrew has had his issues scoring consistently when a lengthy player is affecting his game, so I hope for some better ball movement to help his offense flow. However, Wiggins can sleep at the defensive side because Roberson is a net negative offensive player. Watch out for double teams on the Wrecking Ball.
OKC has tailored its team around athletic players (Except Kyle Singler) or players who have a great court sense for rebounds, team defense, and BBIQ. Enes Kanter, though a poor defender, plays well off of missed shots, and newly acquired Jerami Grant is yet another athletic wing that Minnesota really cannot defend. Victor Oladipo should be guarding Zach Lavine on the outside, and vis-a-vis, but it is through missed shots, hustle, and collecting offensive boards that I feel this game will be decided. Bad news if Wiggins has another sub par rebounding game. Wiggins, don’t let me down, fight for the ball and turn the tide for the North!