The last time the Minnesota Timberwolves took the court was six days ago vs. the Thunder in Oklahoma City (12/1). The result was a disappointing ten-point loss because of an epic fourth quarter collapse. Hopefully this time off will help the Wolves, because they'll need all they can get against the defending champions tonight.
The Wolves haven't played in almost a week because the game vs. San Antonio in Mexico City was postponed due to a 'smoked out' arena. You can read all about that here: Smoked Out!
The biggest news tonight is that the Wolves will be playing without Kevin Love. Love has been with his family the past couple days after the passing of his maternal grandmother. This will be the first game the two-time All-Star will miss this season. In 18 games this year he's leading the NBA in rebounds per game (13.6) and double-doubles (18).
The Heat are the NBA's worst rebounding squad in the NBA averaging just 35.2 a game. That's a direct result of all the small-ball lineups they play. It really hurts that their starting "center" Chris Bosh averages less than 6 a game! The Timberwolves are sixth in the NBA in rebounding with 45.4 a game. That number will likely take a hit tonight with Kevin Love out. The Wolves will be relying on Nikola Peković as well as Dante Cunningham & Luc Richard Mbah a Moute on the boards.
The Heat are coming off an 87-107 loss in Chicago on Thursday night. Chicago's big men went to work against the "small ball" Heat and found A LOT of success. Carlos Boozer finished with 27pts, Taj Gibson had 19pts, Joakim Noah added 17pts & 15reb and swingman Luol Deng chipped in another 20pts. The Heat have now lost two-straight games after dropping one to the Pistons on Tuesday night (97-107).
The Heat were out-rebounded 49-27 in the loss to Chicago and outscored 44-34 in the paint. The Heat have been out-rebounded in their past seven games, including a 95-61 margin over their past two games (both losses). In their last two games they're allowing 107pts, 50.6% shooting and 17-for-35 from deep.
The Heat are 14-5 on the year, but they've had a fairly easy schedule. Take into account that Miami has played just three games against the Western Conference this season! It's no secret how awful the Eastern Conference has been this season. There are currently just 3 teams over .500 in the East (Indiana, Miami & Atlanta). The Heat have faced the Hawks once and won that game, but their other 14 games have come against those terrible Eastern Conference teams. All five of their losses have come against the East all of which have records under .500 (Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Boston, Detroit & Chicago). Miami's season hasn't been terrible, but it's less than an ideal start for the defending champs. The Heat are also 5-3 on the road (which means they've had 11 games at home), 3-0 vs. the West and 8-2 in their last ten games.
The Timberwolves are 9-10 on the year, 6-3 at home, 5-3 vs. the East and 3-7 in their last ten games. The Wolves have had some serious defensive struggles in their last five games. Over that span the Wolves are allowing 109.2 points on 51.6% FG and 46.7% 3PT. They've lost four of their last five games.
The Heat have won their last six meetings vs. the Wolves, which is wins for three seasons straight.
The Wolves will be without Kevin Love (personal), Chase Budinger (knee) and Ronny Turiaf (elbow). Both of our injured reserves seem to be making progress and we should see them back on the court in a couple weeks. Assistant coach David Adelman and his wife had a baby yesterday, Rick & David were not at practice on Friday, but Rick is expected to be on the sidelines tonight (not sure about David, though).
The Heat will be without Greg Oden (knee), the team says his legs are getting stronger and he should return to the court soon. Dwyane Wade didn't play in the Heat's last game (in Chicago) because of an "illness". He's struggled to stay on the court this year due in large part to his bad knees. Wade has played in just one-third of Miami's games this season. He'll be a gametime decision for this one. Big man Chris Andersen missed the game in Chicago for "personal reasons" but he joined the Heat in Minnesota on Friday and will be available for this one--he'll likely see some time against Big Pek tonight.
With Wade in an out of the lineup, the Heat are reportedly looking at acquiring a shooting guard. The Heat have tried three different players (Roger Mason, Ray Allen & James Jones) with Wade out. That hasn't been met with a lot of success. Miami has been active in trade talks and are dangling seldom-used big man Joel Anthony. One player they're looking at is Boston's Courtney Lee (someone buried on the bench behind a lot of other wings).
Let's take a look at tonight's probable starting lineups...
PG: Ricky Rubio (8.7pts, 4.5reb, 8.5ast, 3stls); SG: Kevin Martin (23.2pts, 3.8reb, 2.3ast, 1.1stls); SF: Corey Brewer (14.1pts, 2.5reb, 2stls); PF: Dante Cunningham (5.5pts, 3.8reb, 0.8blks); C: Nikola Peković (15.5pts, 8.7reb, 1ast)
PG: Mario Chalmers (8.7pts, 2.5reb, 4.9ast, 1.7stls); SG: Dwyane Wade (18.5pts, 4.6reb, 5.4ast, 2.1stls); SF: LeBron James (25.7pts, 5.7reb, 6.1ast, 1.2stls); PF: Shane Battier (4.7pts, 2reb, 0.7stls); C: Chris Bosh (14.3pts, 5.6reb, 0.8stls, 1.2blks)
The Timberwolves will either turn to Dante Cunningham or Luc Richard Mbah a Moute as the starting power forward with Kevin Love out. I think Dante will draw the start in this one, but I would prefer Mbah a Moute. Corey Brewer vs. LeBron James isn't an ideal matchup considering how much bigger LBJ is than Corey. Having LRMAM guard James, you could have Brewer take on Battier. Dante is a great defender, but his foot speed against the NBA's best player is concerning. Considering the reason they brought in Mbah a Moute was to go head-to-head with these big athletic swingmen (LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Josh Smith, Paul George, Rudy Gay, etc). Nonetheless, I'll be very interested to see who Adelman starts at power forward and who he has matched up defensively with LBJ.
With no Kevin Love, the Wolves need Kevin Martin & Nikola Peković to carry the team. Martin is averaging 26.7 points per game in his last three outings and Pek is averaging 20.5 points & 10 rebounds in his last four games. This also means more scoring needs to come from guys like Dante, Corey, Luc, Rubio, JJ, etc.
Obviously if Wade is able to play he'll start at shooting guard, but if not the Heat will look to one of those three shooting guards they've tried this season (Mason, Allen or Jones).
Minnesota's biggest concern will be LeBron James. James has carried the Heat this season and he'll look to do the same tonight. Dating back to his time in Cleveland, LeBron has won 14-straight games over the Timberwolves. In his last eight games in Minnesota at the Target Center, he's averaging 31pts, 8.8reb & 6.5ast.
The Wolves need to buckle down on defense, control the glass and limit Miami's transition opportunities if they want a chance in tonight's game. Tipoff is set for 7pmCST, enjoy the game and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!