The Minnesota Timberwolves wrap up their three game road trip on Friday night in Phoenix. They've certainly had their offensive struggles these past two games.
In Memphis on Monday, the Wolves set a new season-low for field goal percentage: 33.7% (29-86). They followed that up Thursday night by setting a new season-low in three-point percentage: 5.3% (1-19).
The Wolves are the worst three-point shooting team in the NBA at 29.4%. Tonight, they'll be facing the second-worst three-point shooting team at 32.4%.
With Minnesota's loss last night in Sacramento, they're now 13th in the Western Conference at 23-43 on the year. The Suns have the same number of wins, but have played three more games than the Wolves at 23-46. The Suns are tied with the Hornets for the worst record in the Western Conference. As of today, the Wolves are 1.5 games ahead of those two teams.
The losses hurt now, but the one silver lining will be when the lotto balls start tumbling this summer. However, given the Wolves' draft history or the assumption that they'll trade the pick, it's hard to remain optimistic.
While the Wolves have struggled, the Suns are in the same boat. Both teams are in a tailspin as the season winds down, but the encouraging news is that somebody has to win! Will it be the Wolves?
The Timberwolves have lost nine straight on the road, two games in a row, twelve of fifteen overall and seventeen of their last eighteen, away from Target Center. The Suns have lost five of their last six and are averaging 91.8ppg on 27.6% 3PT as well as 18.5 turnovers in those six games.
These two teams have met twice already this season and have split those games. The most recent meeting also came in Phoenix on Feb. 26th when the Wolves lost 83-84 in overtime.
The Wolves continue to take small steps toward getting healthy. Chase Budinger returned to the court for the first time since Nov. 10th after missing extended time with that torn lateral meniscus. He played 18 minutes yesterday, but it remains to be seen if he'll play right away in back-to-back games. Kevin Love (hand), Brandon Roy (knees) and Malcolm Lee (knee/hip) all remain out.
The Suns are with some injuries of their own--particularly to their big men. Channing Frye has been out all season with a heart condition, but he remains confident he'll return next season. Marcin Gortat recently suffered a foot injury that will now keep him out for the remainder of the season. His backup, Jermaine O'Neal has been starting at center, but he suffered a calf strain in the Suns' last game and his status for this game is currently unknown, though it sounds likely he'll sit this one out.
Let's take a look at tonight's probable starting lineups...
With Jermaine O'Neal out, it's likely that Luis Scola will take over starting center duties (though the Suns could potentially start Hamed Haddadi to match up better size-wise with Pekovic). Scola has had plenty of success against the Wolves, in his last 12 games vs. the Wolves, he's averaging 18.6ppg & 7.6rpg.
Since the last meeting back in late-February, the Suns are now starting former Wolf Wesley Johnson at shooting guard. He had a good game in that overtime win vs. the Wolves and I'm sure he'll be looking for another solid outing against his former squad.
The Wolves will need to take advantage of Nikola Pekovic's advantage in the paint. Without Marcin Gortat or Jermaine O'Neal the Suns will be relying upon 6'9" Scola and 7'2" Haddadi to contain Minnesota's bruising big man.
The Wolves are still waiting for Andrei Kirilenko's game to return to form, he's struggled since coming back from his calf strain, but I don't doubt he'll be stuffing the stat sheet in the very near future. Luke Ridnour has also struggled lately as his offense has gone M.I.A. Getting these key players back on track will be key in any kind of Wolves win or success for the remaining games.
Tipoff is again a late 9pmCT. This one will be played in Phoenix at US Airways Center, enjoy the game, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!