OKC Thunder (14-8, 7-4 road) at Minnesota Timberwolves (5-16, 4-5 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 108.2 (12th), Wolves – 103.7 (26th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 108.6 (17th), Wolves – 110.9 (26th)
Pace: Thunder – 93.0 (15th), Wolves – 98.1 (1st)
View from the enemy: A Wolf Among Wolves
You’ve got to love after playing a stinker of a game where your two captains get benched that you get to travel to Minnesota. If all goes according to plan, the Thunder should have a nice little bounce-back night against the Wolves.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. These Wolves haven’t been playing as terribly as their record would suggest. And with the way the Thunder played Monday in Chicago, all bets are off. You’d think Kevin Durant and Jeff Green would come out with something to prove, but as inconsistent as this season’s been, I’m not sure you can count on anything as a sure thing.
Minnesota coming in: The Wolves played Monday night in New York. They’re 1-6 in their last seven and only have one win over a plus-.500 team (New York).
Obviously Kevin Love gives Minny its biggest edge. He’s a beast on the glass, relentless in every way. Jeff Green had better be ready to battle, otherwise we could see a ho-hum 20-rebound night from Love. Thing is though, Love’s turned into quite an offensive weapon. He’s a 30-point threat with range extending to the 3-point line. Green has an athletic ability edge and Love’s not a great defender, but this is the matchup to keep an eye on.
I feel like Russell Westbrook has a chance to get himself right and slow down a bit against Luke Ridnour. However, Ridnour is similar to Jose Calderon in that he’s a smart passer, good outside shooter and light defender. But if Russ starts going under screens or doesn’t play the pick and roll well, it’ll be another big night for the opposing point guard.
Michael Beasley is probably Minnesota’s top go-to scorer and he’s playing the small forward spot. Kevin Durant has an advantage there obviously, but Beasley’s no slouch. He’s great off the dribble and plus he’s developing a nice spot-up game from outside.
Darko Milicic is likely out for the Wolves and as stupid as it sounds, that’s a huge break for OKC. Without Milicic, the Wolves are light inside and will likely start Kosta Koufos in his place. Combine Milicic out with Anthony Tolliver and the Wolves have little frontcourt depth. This is a big opportunity for the Thunder’s reserves like Nick Collison and Serge Ibaka to make a mark on this game.
It’ll come down to whether or not the Wolves get someone hot like Wesley Johnson, Corey Brewer or Wayne Ellington. If so, the Wolves will hang right in with the Thunder. But if OKC executes well, closes on shooters and plays to its capability, this should be a taking-care-of-business kind of night. At least we can only hope so.
Tip at 7:00 CT. Go Thun. Der.