It's been seven days since the last Timberwolves game and hopefully that's a good thing. The 19-31 Minnesota Timberwolves were in dire need of some extended time off to recharge and hopefully come out of All-Star break strong.
The Wolves are still far from being at full-strength and that's perhaps what scares me the most. The team can't come back from this break and play subpar basketball while they continue to wait for the cavalry (Kevin Love & Chase Budinger). It's clear at this point (with the Wolves sitting 7.5 games out of the 8th seed) that Minnesota won't be making a postseason appearance, but they still have plenty to play for.
Not only are the Wolves waiting for Love & Bud to return from their injuries, but Thursday's Trade Deadline is lurking. The closer we get to that Deadline, the more it sounds like the Wolves will be making some kind of transaction. My opinion on that? If it nets us a true shooting guard (Arron Afflalo, Courtney Lee, Jared Dudley...) I'm all for it. However, in all honesty it's not worth sacrificing the long-term--considering there's almost no chance for a playoff push, this season.
The Wolves have 32 games left to play and they begin the 'second half' vs. the 76ers on Wednesday evening. The 76ers have had injury struggles of their own (but, not quite on the scale of the TWolves). Despite Philly's injury struggles they still sit at 9th in the Eastern Conference and just 4 games out of that eighth and final playoff spot.
The Sixers obviously made that preseason trade that sent Dwight Howard to the Lakers. The Sixers sent Andre Iguodala to Denver and Nikola Vucevic to Orlando and got Andrew Bynum (and Jason Richardson) in return. Vucevic is having a breakout season in Florida, while AI is a key piece of that Denver squad that's one of the West's best. Andrew Bynum on the other hand...hasn't played a single game for Philly as his lingering knee problems have kept him on the sidelines all season.
Beyond Bynum who remains out, Jason Richardson is out after a having season-ending knee surgery. J-Rich's rehab will be 9-12 months. Thaddeus Young was having a terrific year, but he'll be out until March sometime with a hamstring injury. He said the hammy injury felt like a rubber band popping. That's three of their probable starters that are sidelined.
This just means that they'll have to lean on guys like (All-Star) Jrue Holiday, Nick Young, Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes.
These two teams met once already this season, back on December 4th in Philly. It turned into a laugher and was one of the Wolves' best shooting nights of the season. Minnesota shot 41-77 FG (53.2%) and 13-25 3PT (52%). The Wolves won 105-88 behind 17pts, 3reb, 4ast, 1blk and 4-7 3PT from Alexey Shved and another 16pts, 10reb, 1stl from Josh Howard (who started at small forward). The Wolves were without Andrei Kirilenko in this one (as he was battling back spasms), but he's expected to play in this one (after missing the last five games leading up to the break with a quad contusion). Kevin Love did play in that 12/4 matchup, but wasn't a big contributor as he finished with just 6pts on 2-of-10 FG as well as 10reb & 5ast. This game was 'so long ago' that Malcolm Lee was still the starting shooting guard--he finished with 10pts on 4-of-4 FG as well as 2reb & 1ast in 19 minutes.
Kirilenko's return will certainly help, but the Wolves will still be playing without: Kevin Love (hand), Chase Budinger (knee), Malcolm Lee (knee/hip) and Brandon Roy (knees).
Let's take a look at the probable starting lineups for this one...
Hopefully AK's return will give the Wolves a bit of a boost, both in the starting lineup and returning Gelabale to the bench and back with that second unit. If the Wolves want a win, it will be all about containing All-Star Jrue Holiday. With so many injuries to key players for Philly, he's being ask to carry a big load and on the nights he can't deliver, the Sixers struggle to win. That being said, I'm actually pretty excited to see how Ricky matches up with Jrue on both ends of the floor.
The other concern will be Nick Young. He's a sharpshooter that can get hot in a hurry and Luke will most certainly have his hands full with yet another bigger guard. Beyond that, I don't have too many worries with AK & Turner or DWill & Pek handling Allen & Hawes in the post.
Tipoff for this one is set for 7pmCT from the Target Center, enjoy the game and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!