|2013-2014 NBA Season|
|December 1st, 2013|
|Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma|
|6:00 PM CST|
|TV: Fox Sports Network Oklahoma, Fox Sports Network North|
|Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM/640 AM), KFAN FM 100.3|
|Injury Report: Kendrick Perkins (Questionable?), Chase Budinger (Out), Ronny Turiaf (Out)|
|Previous Matchups: Nov 1 (Timberwolves Lead Season Series 1-0)|
|Ricky Rubio||PG||Russell Westbrook|
|Kevin Martin||SG||Thabo Sefolosha|
|Corey Brewer||SF||Kevin Durant|
|Kevin Love||PF||Serge Ibaka|
|Nikola Pekovic||C||Kendrick Perkins (Steven Adams?)|
|2013/14 Advanced Stats|
|102.0 (2nd)||Pace||99.5 (T-5th)|
|101.8 (12th)||ORtg||103.4 (10th)|
|99.4 (9th)||DRtg||97.1 (5th)|
Ever since they acquired J.J. Barea, the Timberwolves have been a thorn in the Thunder's side. They've possessed a good number of matchup advantages against our favorite team, and were able to outright dominate the Thunder during both teams' second game of the season.
Why do the Timberwolves have such an advantage? I covered how they beat us in a early November article, but the short version is that a lot of dominos fell in the wrong direction. Westbrook was gone, Serge Ibaka was in a huge slump, Steven Adams couldn't handle Pekovic, Reggie Jackson was bothered by defensive pressure, the list goes on. Really, the bigger problem is that the Thunder were having trouble getting a stable offense going without the turnovers and pace-pushing of Westbrook.
Does that mean the Thunder are going to destroy the Timberwolves tonight? Not necessarily. On one hand, it's really hard to see this Thunder team losing, especially after the miraculous Overtime win against Golden State and the late game domination of the Spurs. But on the other hand, Minnesota still possesses a lot of matchup advantages. J.J. Barea is the definition of a Thunder killer, using his speed to slice through slower Thunder defenders and grab easy baskets at the rim. Nikola Pekovic should be able to have his way with any Thunder defender not named Kendrick Perkins due to his size, and Kevin Love has shown skill in stretching out Ibaka's defense to the three point line.
However, things aren't exactly peachy right now in Minnesota. After an extremely strong start, the Timberwolves have lost 6 of their last 9, and haven't gotten any production out of their bench. Before the arrival of Luc Richard Mbah a Moute from the Kings, the Timberwolves reserves were basically down to Dante Cunningham and J.J. Barea. This meant heavy minutes for Pekovic and Love, and forced the team to go small when either one of them were sitting. In essence, they have the same problem that the Trail Blazers had last year: Great starters, terrible bench.
Further exacerbating Minnesota's problems is the inconsistency of Kevin Martin. Those of us who saw him miss shots with the Thunder's bench last season know that he's a volume shooter, and prone to some really nasty cold streaks. He's in the midst of one of those now, as he's shot below 40% in 5 of his last 8 games. When he's such a major part of the offense and provides next to no defense, his cold nights can really kill a team.
Speaking of Mbah a Moute, he's definitely a potential factor. Canis Hoopus has a really nice article about how he might slot in with the team, and he was the team's 6th man against the Mavericks last night. Most important in that aforementioned article is Mbah a Moute's demonstrated defense against Kevin Durant, who admittedly had a tough shooting night against Mbah a Moute in 2012. But Durant's had success against Mbah a Moute before, so I'm not reading too much into this matchup.
All in all, tonight's game should be a nice opportunity for revenge. The Timberwolves possess the advantages and skill necessary to win, but I'm not sure they possess the stamina. They're on the second end of a back-to-back, having secured a tough win in Dallas on Saturday night. Furthermore, they've only had a couple two-day rest periods this season and have played 4 more games than the Thunder have. (Indeed, the Timberwolves set a franchise record for games played before December 1st this season.)
If the Timberwolves are to win, they'll have to control their turnovers and not allow the Thunder to get any easy points in transition. Then, they'll have to lock down the perimeter and keep the Thunder from having a decent day from three. Both of these things are easily achievable, and a large part of why they've been so good against the Thunder. But the third key involves getting consistent offensive production from Brewer, Martin, and Barea. And that's easier said than done.
One last note: If the Thunder win tonight, they'll have beaten every opponent that they've played this season. That would be pretty cool, so get hyped!
How do you think tonight's game will go? Let us know in the comments!