The Minnesota Timberwolves are looking to extend their best start in eleven seasons. 4-1 is the Wolves' best start since 2001-02 when they began the season 6-0. After wins over Brooklyn, Orlando and Indiana the past three games the Wolves matched the longest winning streak of the entire 2011-12 season!
The TWolves are 4-1 on the year and 1-1 on the road (a win over Brooklyn and a loss to Toronto). The Bulls are 2-3 on the year and 2-2 at home. The Bulls began the season 2-0, but since, have lost 2 of their last 3 games.
What does Minnesota, Chicago and the Wolves' last opponent (Indiana) have in common? Four names: Kevin Love/Ricky Rubio, Derrick Rose and Danny Granger. All three of these teams are without their best player(s). What's the difference between Minnesota & Chicago/Indiana? The Wolves have continued to excel without their best players--whereas the Bulls & the Pacers haven't had as much success.
The Timberwolves will be without Kevin Love (hand) and Ricky Rubio (knee). J.J. Barea will also sit this one out after suffering a mid-foot sprain vs. the Orlando Magic on 11/7. There's a chance he could join the team on Monday for the game in Dallas. The Wolves may also be without their starting shooting guard Brandon Roy. Roy banged his right knee (the same one that gave him trouble during the preseason) and only played 15 minutes in the win over Indiana on Friday (not playing at all in the second half). No word on if he'll be able to play, if he doesn't, expect Chase Budinger to get the start.
The Chicago Bulls will be without Derrick Rose (knee). Luol Deng jammed his thumb in the game vs. the Thunder (on 11/8), however reports say he's just fine and will play tonight.
Chicago's last game came on 11/8 vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder. The result was a 91-97 loss for the Bulls. The Bulls were outscored 31-19 in the fourth quarter, thanks in large part to Kevin Durant (who scored 10 of his 24 in the fourth). The Bulls are without their closer (Rose) and it clearly showed in that loss. Deng had 27pts, 1reb, 2ast, 1stl, 1blk; Richard Hamilton added 20pts, 8reb, 2stls, 1blk and Kirk Hinrich finished with 12pts, 3reb, 5ast.
The Timberwolves' last game was last night vs. the Indiana Pacers. The result was a 96-94 win. A back-and-forth affair all game long. With just over three seconds to play and the game tied at 94, Luke Ridnour inbounded the ball to Andrei Kirilenko on the right side of the court about 15 feet from the bucket as the clock wound down it looked as though AK would have to jack up a contested mid-range jumper at the buzzer, however Chase Budinger cut down the lane from the three-point lane and found himself wide open for a gimme bucket and the 96-94 win! Chase finished with 18pts, 4reb, 2ast, 1stl, 1blk; Williams added 15pts, 1reb, 1ast; Shved had another great game/fourth quarter finishing with 11pts, 3reb, 7ast, 1blk and Dante Cunningham also added 11pts and 4reb.
The Timberwolves currently have the 4th best defense in the NBA, allowing just 90.0 points a game. They'll be matched up with the Chicago Bulls, who have the 5th best defense in the NBA, allowing 90.4 points a game. Both teams are pretty similar in team stats. The Wolves are averaging 94.2ppg (22nd overall)--Chicago 96.0ppg (17th overall). Minnesota is 13th in rebounds a game w/42.8 and Chicago is 14th w/42.4 a game. And lastly, the TWolves are averaging 22 assists per game (11th overall) and the Bulls are averaging 25.0 a game (4th overall).
The Wolves did play two preseason games vs. the Bulls. The first came on Oct. 13th, a 82-75 Wolves win (Pekovic had 16pts & 17reb in that one) and the second was an 81-92 Wolves loss on Oct. 19th.
Let's take a look at the probable starting lineups...
Without Kevin Love's 26pts a game the Wolves are doing a fantastic job balancing the scoring load with five player averaging double digits (all listed above) along with 9.3ppg from J.J. Barea and just over 7 apiece from Dante Cunningham & Alexey Shved.
Minnesota's success will depend on whether or not they can contain Luol Deng and have an answer for the Bulls' bigs. Kirilenko will guard Deng and should be able to lock him down/limit him. Derrick Williams looked pretty good, defensively vs. David West last night--hopefully that'll carry over vs. another bruising power forward: Carlos Boozer.
That's all for now, this one tips at 7pmCT from the United Center in Chicago. As per usual, we'll have a full gameday recap following the final horn. Until then, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!