OKC Thunder (23-18, 11-9 road) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (9-33, 6-15 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 106.2 (20th), Wolves – 100.0 (29th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 103.2 (4th), Wolves – 109.9 (23rd)
Pace: Thunder – 92.2 (18th), Wolves – 96.1 (4th)
View from the enemy: Howlin’ T-Wolf
Lock up win No. 24 and let’s move on, right? Not right. It’s not because there could be a potential letdown after the big win in Atlanta Monday. I don’t think this Thunder team is really a letdown kind of group. It’s because Minnesota isn’t as bad as their record says. I’m serious. Talent is on that roster and they’ve been competitive, especially as of late. The way they’re playing close but yet losing reminds me a little of OKC a year ago.
Minny can beat good teams. They beat the Nuggets in Denver, which isn’t easy. They also beat Utah and the Jazz are a good team. So the Thunder could easily fall as well. All I’m saying is that while yes, OKC should win, I just don’t think we can put this one in our pockets and skip on to the next one. It’s still worth watching. And no, Fox Sports Oklahoma didn’t pay me to say that.
Minnesota coming in: The Wolves beat Philly in overtime on Monday night and have lost four of five and eight of their last 10. In January, they’re 2-9.
Good news for the Thunder as Kevin Love is likely out tonight with an illness. So that should help ease some of the advantage Minnesota was sure to have on the glass. But still, Al Jefferson is a gifted big man than has wonderful post moves and is a thread for 20-15 every night. It’ll be center by committee tonight for OKC as Nenad Krstic and Serge Ibaka (no Nick Collison still) will have their hands full.
But one matchup you’ve got to love: Damien Wilkins vs. Kevin Durant. Not only will KD have a chance to torch our old friend Damien, but Wilkins just don’t match up well. He’s much shorter than KD. He’s slower. He’s not a gifted defender by any means. Durant should cruise to his 16th straight game with 25 or more points.
How about Corey Brewer against Thabo? Talk about some length. Brewer has some scoring ability and athleticism, so Thabo will certainly have to watch him. I don’t know anywhere else Thabo would really guard as Wilkins isn’t a huge threat and Ryan Gomes who started in place of Love isn’t a big threat either.
Jonny Flynn has been the main offensive catalyst for the Wolves lately, but I like Russell Westbrook on him. Westbrook is bigger and stronger, and possibly faster. And with the way Russ is playing, I’m pretty confident in him going up against most anybody. But Flynn is no slouch as a defender. Here’s where I talk about how Flynn came from the “rough and tumble” Big East and is “tough.” But my name isn’t Jay Bilas so I’ll refrain.
The only way Minnesota shocks OKC is if someone comes out of nowhere with a big game. Maybe it’s Wayne Ellington off the bench. Maybe Damien Wilkins gets hot. Maybe Brian Cardinal has a career night. I’m sorry, that last one is just funny to think about. But someone getting on a roll is definitely possible. This isn’t a total gimme. But regardless of all factors, this should be a win for the Thunder. You can live with losing a tight one to the Spurs or Mavs, but dropping one on the road to the Wolves just shouldn’t happen. But still… I’m a little nervous about it.
Tip at 7:00 CST. Go Thundah.