The Minnesota Timberwolves were expected to struggle without Kevin Love & Ricky Rubio to begin the season, however they find themselves two games over .500 and they're currently ranked #6 in the Western Conference standings. That was without Kevin Love for the first nine games and a struggling Kevin Love for the last eleven.
Tonight the Wolves will be looking for a season-high fourth-straight win, they'll look to do so over a team they've already defeated once this season. The Mavs fell to the Wolves in Dallas the last time these two teams met (11/12) in a 90-82 Wolves win. Despite it being an 8-point win, the Wolves actually dominated this game as the Mavs got some buckets in the final minute to make the score a bit more respectable. Andrei Kirilenko had 16pts & 11reb while Pek added 20pts in that win (this was of course before Love returned to the active roster).
Both teams are playing the second half of back-to-back games tonight as both teams had outings last night. Let's see how both teams fared...
12/14 @New Orleans Hornets, 113-102W
The TWolves absolutely dominated the Hornets in the battle of the big men. That huge points in the paint advantage the Wolves held (70-42) was the key to this 11-point victory.
12/14 @Toronto Raptors, 74-95L
It was the lowest scoring night of the season for the Mavs (74pts). The Raps took control with a 30-16 second quarter and got a big boost from their bench w/L. Kleiza (20pts) & T. Ross (18pts)
The Dallas Mavericks have played the entire season without their star forward: Dirk Nowitzki. He remains out, however it sounds like he'll begin practicing next week and is targeting a late-December return. Jae Crowder missed last night's contest in Toronto with an illness and is a gametime decision for this one, if he's able to go, I'd expect him to start at small forward.
Let's take a look at the probable starting lineups in this one...
Luke Ridnour (11.9ppg, 4.8apg, 1.4spg)
Alexey Shved (10.6ppg, 2.6rpg, 3.9apg)
Andrei (13.5ppg, 7.7rpg, 3.3apg, 1.8spg, 1.8bpg)
Kevin Love (19.4ppg, 13.7rpg, 2.1apg)
Nikola Pekovic (15ppg, 7.2rpg, 0.9bpg)
Derek Fisher (7.9ppg, 2.1rpg, 3.9apg)
O.J. Mayo (20.4ppg, 4rpg, 3.4apg)
Dahntay Jones (3.7ppg, 1.7rpg, 0.5apg)
Shawn Marion (10.1ppg, 7.7rpg, 2.9apg)
Chris Kaman (14.2ppg, 6.5rpg, 0.9bpg)
For the Mavericks, as I said before, if Jae Crowder (6.4ppg, 2.7rpg, 1.2spg) is able to play, expect him to start at small forward in this one.
The last time the Wolves faced Dallas, the Mavs were without Shawn Marion and they were still starting Darren Collison at point guard. Since then, Marion has returned from injury and taken over Elton Brand's place in the starting lineup, Chris Kaman has retaken his starting spot at center (Brandan Wright started at the five in the last MIN-DAL matchup) and the Mavs signed veteran Derek Fisher to a one-year deal.
The key in this one will be containing O.J. Mayo and building off the great offensive outings the Wolves have had their past two games (scoring over 100 in each of them). The matchup of the night in this one will be Shved vs. Mayo. I'm interested to see how Alexey fares against one the NBA's Most Improved Players in Mayo (who's also a Top 10 shooting guard in the NBA this year).
Lastly, my hometown Lake City Tigers are playing the Lewiston-Altura Cardinals this afternoon at the Target Center, after which a bunch of the Lake City faithful will be attending the game, a big shoutout to them and the Tigers as they'll witness (along with an assumed sellout crowd) the debut of Ricky Rubio later tonight!
That's all for now, tipoff is set for 7pmCT, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!