The Minnesota Timberwolves head out on the road for the next two games on the East Coast. The Wolves will play Friday and Saturday vs. the Washington Wizards and the Charlotte Bobcats. Record-wise these are the two worst teams in the NBA.
The Minnesota Timberwolves had a great start to the season, but have been decimated by injuries and are definitely slumping as of late. The Washington Wizards are a team that had an absolutely awful start to the season, but have improved lately thanks in large part to the return of John Wall.
The Wolves are 1-7 in their last eight games. For the last three games they've played without two of their big contributors: Nikola Pekovic and Alexey Shved. They did grab a win over the Houston Rockets last weekend, but since dropped games vs. the Hawks and the Nets--two teams that exploited a glaring mismatch in the paint. Greg Stiemsma is no Nikola Pekovic and he was manhandled by Al Horford and Brook Lopez these past two games. With two very talented big men in the Washington starting lineup: Nene & Emeka Okafor, that's going to be a big concern in this matchup.
The Wizards are 5-3 in their last eight games. John Wall returned following knee surgery just seven games ago and has definitely provided a big boost to a Washington squad that seemed to be headed to a Top 4 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. The Wizards have played 40 games this season and have 42 to go. If the Wiz can play .500 basketball for the remainder of the season, they could finish 30-52. That's still out of the playoffs, but it's clear that a team that features John Wall, Nene, Emeka Okafor and two young and talented shooting guards: Jordan Crawford & Bradley Beal; is a much better team than their 9-31 record says.
The Wolves enter this game 17-22, two-and-a-half games out of the 8th seed in the West and 6-15 on the road. The Wizards are 9-31, 6-13 at home, but 5-5 in their last ten games, yet they are currently the worst team in the NBA (record-wise).
The Wolves are will be without Kevin Love (hand), Brandon Roy (knees), Chase Budinger (knee) and Malcolm Lee (knee/hip). As I said before, Nikola Pekovic (thigh) and Alexey Shved (ankle) are both out, as well. Pek & Alexey didn't make the trip and thus won't play on Saturday vs. the Bobcats, either.
The Wizards are without Cartier Martin (knee) as he'll likely be out for another week or more. Bradley Beal has been dealing with a wrist injury since a hard fall vs. the Nuggets. It's likely he'll continue to play through it though.
Let's take a look at the probable starting lineups for this one...
John Wall has played only seven games this season and has come off the bench in all those games. I assume he'll continue to come off the bench in this one, averaging 25.1 minutes a game.
As you can see former Wolf Martell is playing for Washington now. He took over the starting small forward role for Trevor Ariza this season and is having a decent season, with most of his averages up across the board.
The biggest concern in this one will be matching up vs. John Wall when he comes into the game and containing Derrick Williams & Emeka Okafor down low. The Wolves need to chase the Wizards' three-point shooters off the line and also limit turnovers. Wall is one of (if not the) fastest player(s) in the NBA. They'll get out and run off Minnesota's miscues to get easy transition baskets.
Tipoff is set for 6pmCT, enjoy the game thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!