Preview 42 of 82: Thunder @ Timberwolves

Time: 7:00 PM CT

TV: ESPN / Fox Sports Oklahoma

Radio: WWLS (98.1 FM OKC / 97.1 FM Tulsa)

Game Notes: Thunder / T-Wolves

I don’t know about y’all, but I’m pretty happy this is the last time the Thunder plays the Wolves in the regular season. Each of the previous three games has put me on the verge of a heart attack, with the last five minutes of each game collectively taking a decade off my life.

In the first matchup, Andrew Wiggins hit a halfcourt buzzer-beater after  a clearly illegal Karl-Anthony Towns screen. In the second matchup, Karl-Anthony Towns recorded 33 points and 19 rebounds and Carmelo Anthony missed the game-tying three. In the most recent matchup, Steven Adams scored a career-high 27 points on perfect shooting from both the field and the line and Paul George made two clutch free throws with 5.2 seconds left to clinch the win.

There’s a lot on the line tonight for both the Thunder (22-18) and the T-Wolves (26-16) so I can only imagine what type of historical antics will occur.  Currently, both teams sit atop the Northwest Division although the Thunder fell to third after losing to Portland last night. On top of that, both squads are fighting for homecourt advantage in what could likely be the 4-5 matchup in the first round of the playoffs.

If the Thunder loses tonight, the head-to-head record against the Wolves will be 3-1 so this game could very well determine the division title and homecourt advantage in the event of a tie. If you think I’m being dramatic, recall when the Thunder missed the playoffs entirely in 2015 because of a losing head-to-head record (and a miraculous buzzer three… still mad, Anthony Davis) against the Pelicans. No pressure, though.

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Injury Report

Thunder

  • Andre Roberson: Out – Knee

T-Wolves

  • Jeff Teague: Questionable – Knee

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Probable Starters

T-Wolves: Tyus Jones, Andrew Wiggins, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, Karl-Anthony Towns

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Statistics  

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Previous Results

October 22 @ OKC: MIN 115 OKC 113 [Box Score]

October 27 @ MIN: MIN 119 OKC 116 [Box Score]

December 1 @ OKC: OKC 111 MIN 107 [Box Score]

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Notes

I’m Sorry, Andre Roberson. I’m sorry, Andre Roberson, for all the times I complained about your offensive liabilities. It’s becoming very clear that your defensive prowess is essential for stopping other teams from raining threes on us. I miss you, get well soon!

Stop the Skid. After a December to Remember, the Thunder has lost four of their past six games. After last night’s game Coach Billy Donovan said, “When you’re trying to make improvements, it never just goes like a smooth (line) all the way up. There’s always these bumps and dips.” Hopefully, this is just a dip and the Thunder can get back on track tonight. As mentioned in yesterday’s preview, the Thunder has a tough schedule ahead in January and playing the second half of a back to back tonight. A three-game losing streak could set a bad tone for the rest of the month.

Second Chance Points. The Thunder has struggled in the last two games with both stopping second-chance points on defense and creating second-chance points on offense. With Adams leading the league in offensive rebounds, the Thunder ranks 4th in second-chance points per game (14.3) this season. However, there has been a drop in second-chance points for the Thunder between December and January. In December, the team averaged 14.8 second-chance points per game (3rd in the league). In January (granted smaller sample size), the average is 13.8 second-chance points per game (10th in the league). Furthermore, OKC ranks 16th in the league in opponent second-chance points allowed (12.4), which is an issue they team needs to focus on tonight.

Playoff Prediction. ESPN NBA Insiders broke down what could happen in a potential Thunder/T-Wolves playoff series and the results were overwhelmingly in OKC’s favor. The Insiders (Brain Windhorst, Bobby Marks, André Snellings, Royce Young, and Kevin Pelton) predicted OKC would come out on top in a seven-game series due to defense and playoff experience. When asked which team is a bigger threat to the Warriors four-out-of-five insiders picked OKC (Marks said neither). Regardless of tonight’s outcome, the Thunder looks built to outlast the T-Wolves when it matters most. But… I’d really love it if Russ hit a game-winner over Andrew Wiggins.

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