The Timberwolves had a chance to move to .500 on the year in their previous game vs. Memphis, but suffered another narrow defeat--losing 86-90. The Wolves are playing the final game of a five-game homestand. Minnesota has gone 2-2 during that stretch with losses to Memphis & Miami and wins over Dallas & San Antonio.
It'll be the Wolves' first look at the Cavs' rookie and #1 overall pick: Kyrie Irving. Irving is the starting point guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers after Baron Davis was injured and "amnestied" out of town. It should be fun to watch to rookie point guards (Rubio & Kyrie) go head-to-head. It'll also be the first meeting of the two top picks, with Minnesota's Derrick Williams (#2 overall pick) coming off the bench.
Minnesota has proven early this season that they can compete with any team in the League. Their inconsistency in "closing out" games, however, has been just ONE of MANY Achilles' heels. Add to that list turning the ball over, interior defense, underwhelming starters (Darko, Wes, Beasley) and too often stagnant offense. And those are just a handful, I can think of off the top of my head (I'm sure you could make a 'laundry list' of negatives this season--BUT you could also find a lot more positives from a year ago!).
The Cavaliers have begun this young season: 3-3. Their latest game? A 92-77 defeat at the hands of the Toronto Raptors (if you haven't checked out video of their new 3D court logos--do so, it's pretty cool).
Antawn Jamison leads the Cavaliers with 17.2ppg, he starts at power forward, so he'll be going up against Kevin Love--the Timberwolves' leading scorer at 25.7ppg. More comparison: Rookie Kyrie Irving is leading the Cavaliers with 5.3apg, while TWolves rookie Ricky Rubio leads Minnesota with 7apg (Rubio-Irving is definitely the matchup I'm most looking forward to seeing).
The Timberwolves will likely, again, be without J.J. Barea who continues to recover from a strained hamstring. He COULD come back right now, but he's taking the time to be sure he's at 100% when he does return. There's been some quiet chatter Beasley could sit a few games to give his finger time to heal, as he said after the game vs. Memphis that his stitches are making it hard to "feel the ball". We'll see what happens there...
The Cavaliers' only injury is to reserve guard Daniel Gibson with a finger injury. He did play 25 minutes in the loss to the Raptors. He's still currently listed as day-to-day on the injury report, but there's no doubt he'll be playing vs. Minnesota on Friday, especially since (like Minnesota) Cleveland has Thursday "off".
Let's take a look at each team's starting lineups...
I don't expect Rick Adelman to make any changes to the starting lineup for this one. Luke's playing great and so is Ricky coming off the bench, it doesn't matter how loud the Target Center crowd chants RUBIO! in the first quarter, while Luke's knocking down floaters and threes! With Johnson, he's playing absolutely terrible. However, let's face it, Adelman doesn't have a lot of options--or really any, at the shooting guard--here's hoping Wes dramatically improves VERY SOON! Michael Beasley can't seem to find his shot and his stitched up finger sounds like it isn't helping. Lastly, Darko. I think Darko definitely had an off-night vs. Memphis on both ends, however he's been fairly impressive early this season in less minutes a game--a lot more motivated on both ends of the floor. The only change you won't see is a different power forward. Love's 25-15 performances are being second nature. Mr. Consistent is fun to watch and is carrying this team (you go to our stats page you can see his face on about every stat!
Cleveland is starting one of their top picks (Irving) while Tristan Thompson (selected 4th overall) is the backup power forward--coming off the bench behind veteran Antawn Jamison. Honestly, looking at Cleveland's roster, I don't see any real threats beyond Jamison (17.2ppg) and Kyrie (14.2), who'll likely combine for 25-40 points--beyond them and reserve point guard Ramon Sessions (averaging 10.5ppg) the Cavs don't have a lot of big-time scorers on their roster! With the Wolves' improved defense, so long as Minnesota shoots the ball well, I don't see them losing this game.
The Timberwolves will have a chance to move to 3-4 on the year. Tipoff is set for 7pmCT at the Target Center. Following the final horn, we'll have a full gameday recap of this one right here! Until then, you can check out our new stats, videos & pictures page(s). Thanks for reading and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!