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Thunder vs. Timberwolves: Do the T-Wolves Stand a Chance Post-Rubio? (2011-2012 Game 48 Preview)

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GAMETHREAD at 7! I know you've got nothing better to do! Be there!

Records: The Oklahoma City Thunder (35-12) vs. The Minnesota Timberwolves (23-25)

Time: 7:00 PM Central Standard Time

Place: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

TV: Fox Sports Network Oklahoma, Fox Sports Network North

Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1), KFAN 1130 AM

Enemy Blog(s): Canis Hoopus, Twolves Blog, Howlin' T-Wolf

Previous Meeting(s): Dec. 26th (Thunder Lead Series 1-0)

When Ricky Rubio tore his ACL on March 10th, 2012, Minnesota lost their rookie sensation. And with him, they seem to have lost all hope for their first playoff run in the post-Garnett era. They've gone 2-4 since losing him, with a loss to the lowly Kings. In their most recent game against San Antonio, they got destroyed in the first quarter and stood no chance of coming back.

But, the Timberwolves still pack some punch. Kevin Love is still putting up absurdly high point and rebound totals, and functions as the center point of Minnesota's offense. The Montenegrin Nikola Pekovic provides size and a reason not to double-team Love constantly, while Ridnour, Barea, and Beasley are always threats to go off offensively.

In the Timberwolves' previous matchup with the Thunder, the Thunder held Kevin Love to below his season average, and forced three turnovers from him. But Michael Beasley scored 24 points against Durant, who provided some really weak defense. Barea also found ways to tear it up via driving to the basket, like he did so many times in the Western Conference Finals last year.

So, uniquely, the Thunder's main problem tonight will not be Kevin Love. Rather, it will be the problems caused by having the antithesis of our best players on the floor tonight. Michael Beasley has the same skill set as Durant, but he also has a bad attitude and the ability to work right through Durant's defense. Jose Juan Barea attacks the basket just as much as Westbrook, but he's smaller, quicker, and beats him off the dribble every time. It's almost like the Timberwolves are the Thunder's yang, in a way. One team was built through years of acquiring youth and developing a true sense of team, and the other team was put together haphazardly by a GM everyone thinks is a knucklehead. But strangely, both seem destined for success.

Besides, who knows which Thunder team will show up tonight? The one that played arrogantly and lost to the Jazz, or the one that completely blew out the Clippers? One might think the Thunder are a determined team after how well they put away the Clips, but they've been maddeningly inconsistent over the past few weeks.

For the reasons above, I'm predicting this game to go right down to the wire.

Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 102, Minnesota Timberwolves 100