Thunder (1-0, 1-0 road) vs. Timberwolves (1-0, 1-0 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 101.4 (16th), Wolves– 108.3 (8th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 98.3 (10th), Wolves – 103.8 (16th)
Pace: Thunder – 99.7 (7th), Wolves – 100.3 (6th)
View from the enemy: A Wolf Among Wolves
The Thunder always have problems in Minneapolis. They’ve won there, no doubt, but it’s never easy. And coming off the mess that was the opener, this feels like a night full of potential problems. The good news is that the Wolves aren’t an overly excellent defensive team. The bad news is, neither were the Jazz, and unlike them, the Wolves have ample offensive weapons to punish you if things go stale for six or seven minutes.
I personally think the Wolves are going to be pretty good this season. In terms of dark horse teams that could climb into the fifth or six-seed conversation, the Wolves appear to be a likely contender to pull that off. Assuming good health with Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic, Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin, that’s a pretty explosive offensive group. And one that’s going to be tough to guard.
Where the Thunder have to improve tonight is in actually deploying the things they’ve claimed to have worked so hard on. It’s a common basketball buzzphrase to say, “trust the pass.” But the Thunder do not trust the pass. Especially when the situation breaks down and things get tight. I honestly don’t blame them all that much because look at the options. Four-point game with five minutes left, would you rather give the ball to Kevin Durant and let him work, or try and move and space and trust the pass that could end up in Thabo Sefolosha’s hands with four on the shot clock?
To me, it’s more about establishing that rhythm and flow and trust throughout the game and then transitioning into letting Durant close when the time is right. Against the Wolves tonight, I think there will definitely be an opportunity to rework this.
Three Big Things
1. Rebounding. Love and Pekovic own both ends of the floor on the boards, so it won’t just be about Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka, but others will have to get involved and help. Durant will need to get on the glass, Reggie Jackson, Sefolosha and whoever else plays. Give the Wolves extra opportunities and they’re going to pay them off.
2. Serge Ibaka. Shooting 4-15 isn’t going to cut it for him. His face up/midrange game is where he’s strongest and I think he’s going to battle the balance between being aggressive and assertive with his shot and remaining within the flow and rhythm of the offense. One thing that would help a lot? Actually running some sets for him, rather than just isolating and expecting him to do something.
3. Rotations. I have a feeling this is going to be a thing for a few weeks. Scott Brooks went with 10 in the first quarter against the Jazz. More of the same? Is Steven Adams backing up Perk again tonight? Will Perry Jones play? Will Brooks stagger his rotation to try and keep either Jackson or Durant on the floor at all times?
Tip at 7:00 CT. Go Second Game.