The Minnesota Timberwolves came out of the All-Star break and grabbed their 20th win of the season on Wednesday night at Target Center vs. the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Wolves got off to a great first half vs. the Sixers, but things definitely went downhill in the second half. In fact, the Wolves scored just one field goal in the fourth quarter, but hit 16 free throws to escape with the 94-87 win. As bad as the Wolves were late in that one, the Sixers were even worse. I wouldn't count on a similar scenario tonight vs. the Thunder.
Although the Thunder have lost three consecutive games and with a loss tonight they'd lose their first four-straight regular season games since Kevin Durant & Russell Westbrook teamed up. Unfortunately as rough a stretch the Thunder have gone through lately, a win over the TWolves seems pretty likely.
The Thunder have won 13 of the last 14 meetings. This season, the Wolves are 1-1 vs. OKC. The Wolves beat the Thunder on Dec. 20th by a slim 99-93 final. That W snapped a 12-game losing streak for the Wolves vs. the Thunder. These two teams met again on Jan. 9th (in OKC) and the result was a drubbing and an 84-106 final. Durant & Westbrook combined for 49 in that game.
The Thunder are fresh off a 122-119 loss to the Houston Rockets. That was a game in which they allowed their former teammate--James Harden, to score 46 points and sneak away with the slim victory.
While the Thunder have struggled lately, they've won 16-straight games at home when facing Western Conference opponents.
The Timberwolves will continue to be without a quartet of players: Kevin Love (OUT-broken hand), Chase Budinger (OUT-knee), Brandon Roy (OUT-knees) and Malcolm Lee (OUT-knee/hip).
The Thunder could be without two of their players. Seldom-used backup rookie shooting guard Jeremy Lamb is dealing with a back strain and is questionable for this one. OKC's starting center Kendrick Perkins is currently dealing with a sprained knee and could also be out for this one. He's currently listed as a gametime decision.
With that in mind, let's take a look at the probable starting lineups for this one...
If the Thunder are really going to be without Kendrick Perkins (4.6P, 5.9R, 1.2B) in this one that gives the Wolves a HUGE advantage in the post. There's no one else on that team that can match up with Nikola Pekovic (physically). If Thabeet starts, I guarantee he'll have two fouls and be on his way to the bench within the first 3-4 minutes of action.
The obvious concern will be containing Westbrook & Durant. Our two best defenders (Rubio & Kirilenko) will be matched up against them and you can't ask for much more, however that likely won't be enough.
Oklahoma City was one team that made a few trades prior to yesterday's Deadline. They sent seldom-used third-string point guard Eric Maynor (who was coming off ACL surgery) to the Portland Trailblazers and received a $2.2million traded player exception in return. They then sent a future second round pick to the New York Knicks for benched swingman Ronnie Brewer. Brewer is a solid addition to an already great Thunder squad. He'll backup Kevin Durant at the small forward and they could make for some very lethal defensive lineups like: Westbrook, Sefelosha, Brewer, Durant & Ibaka. They certainly have a few more lineup options with him in the mix.
Tipoff is set for 7pmCT, enjoy the game, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!