2012-2013 Game 35 Preview: Thunder+Martin Seek to Recover Vs. T-Wolves

Kevin Durant is smart enough to use his targeting computer. Not trust the force like some idiot! - William Bennett Berry

The Timberwolves shocked the Thunder with their December 20th victory, stopping a 12 game win streak and putting themselves on the NBA map. But now, with Kevin Love sidelined with injuries and Kevin Martin returning to the lineup, it remains to be seen whether the T-Wolves can become an elite team.

2012-2013 NBA Season
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The Minnesota Timberwolves(16-15)
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The Oklahoma City Thunder (23-6)
January 9th, 2012
Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
7:00 PM CST
Fox Sports Network Oklahoma, WFTC My Network TV 29
WWLS the Sports Animal (98.1), WCCO News Radio 830
Enemy Blogs: Canis Hoopus, T-Wolves Blog, Timberpups, A Wolf Among Wolves, Howlin' T-Wolf
Previous Meetings: Dec 20th (Timberwolves Lead Season Series 1-0)
Probable Starters
Luke Ridnour PG Russell Westbrook
Aleksey Shved SG Thabo Sefolosha
Dante Cunningham SF Kevin Durant
Andrei Kirilenko PF Serge Ibaka
Nikola Pekovic C Kendrick Perkins

The Timberwolves shocked the Thunder with their December 20th victory, stopping a 12 game win streak and putting themselves on the NBA map. But now, with Kevin Love sidelined with injuries and Kevin Martin returning to the lineup, it remains to be seen whether the T-Wolves can become an elite team and guarantee a series tie with the Thunder.

After the hubbub of the return of Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, the Timberwolves haven't really done much more than tread water at .500. Unfortunately, the return of Love was disappointing, as he shot 35% from the field and 21% from three. Rubio hasn't been the greatest either, battling constant back injuries and only getting spot minutes where he focuses solely on distribution.

But, other players have definitely started to step it up. Aleksey Shved has become a bigger part of his team's passing game, acting as the defacto starting point guard. He's also doing his best to revitalize the team's three point shooting, which has suffered lately. In the post, Montenegrin Nikola Pekovic has become almost more effective than Kevin Love was, scoring with the force and efficiency necessary to win games.

Is this enough to beat the Thunder? Probably not. While the argument could be made that the T-Wolves are better without Kevin Love holding their offense hostage, it's easy to say that the Thunder are better with Kevin Martin. They're especially better when Reggie Jackson isn't playing at the end of the fourth quarter as a shooting guard for no good reason.

But the key to tonight's victory will be Serge Ibaka. I know he's not good at a transition game, but there's no good reason the Thunder can't slow down their offense a few times and get this dude some looks. The Timberwolves will likely play a zone defense against the Thunder again, and if they can't rely on their regular players to hit shots, then they're going to have to rely way too heavily on Durant and Westbrook to carry the team.

On the T-Wolves side, it's all about taking smart threes, keeping turnovers low, and riding the legs of J.J. Barea, who seems to have an innate talent for destroying our team. However, the above is easier said than done, because the team usually stinks it up from three, and doesn't have a solid offensive rock to carry them forward. If one or two guys have a bad offensive night, it can really ruin the batch. Furthermore, they're one of the leagues higher turnover teams because they attempt a lot of risky passes and spread ballhandling duties among four players. J.J. Barea is a lock to do well though, so they've got that going for them.

Anyway, after the "suffering" of a 2-2 stretch, I've got to predict a win tonight, right? We're at home, the T-Wolves are on the second night of a back-to-back from Minnesota, and Kevin Martin's here this time. The odds are in our favor, so let's roll.

Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 103, Minnesota Timberwolves 98.

If you are looking for tickets to upcoming games, you can find Oklahoma City Thunder tickets here.

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