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2013-2014 Game 33 Preview: Thunder Try to Rebound at Timberwolves

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Can the Thunder avoid another offensive collapse, this time against one of the league's highest-scoring teams?

Doppelganger rivalry!
Doppelganger rivalry!
Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
2013-2014 NBA Season
Lost 2

Won 1
January 4th, 2013
Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
7:00 PM Central Standard Time
TV: Fox Sports Network Oklahoma, Fox Sports Network North
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM/640 AM), News Radio 830 WCCO
Injury Report: Russell Westbrook (Out), Luc Richard Mbah A Moute (Questionable), Chase Budinger (Out), Ronny Turiaf (Out)
Previous Matchups: Nov 1st, Dec 1st (The Season Series is Tied at 1-1)
Probable Starters
Reggie Jackson PG Ricky Rubio
Thabo Sefolosha SG Kevin Martin
Kevin Durant SF Corey Brewer
Serge Ibaka PF Kevin Love
Kendrick Perkins C Nikola Pekovic
2013/14 Advanced Stats
98.7 (5th) Pace 100.0 (2nd)
106.6 (T-5th) ORtg 105.2 (T-9th)
97.6 (2nd) DRtg 102.7 (14th)

So, based upon what we know, here's how this game is likely to go:

  • It's going to be fast and furious. The Timberwolves have a big starting lineup, but they don't play a big off of the bench, so they go small about half of the time. They also have some great distributors in Rubio and Barea, so when their jumpshots are falling, the team is a real force to be feared.
  • The Thunder will be able to do a relatively good job defending the Timberwolves considering the pace. The T-Wolves haven't shot above 43% against the Thunder yet this year. Thus, the key to a Thunder victory will likely be on the offensive end.
  • The Timberwolves aren't going to let the Thunder get to the line very often, but if the Thunder can find some success doing so, it just might push the needle in their favor.
  • Because they have two shot creators at center, the Timberwolves will have little trouble getting to the rim. The Thunder rely a lot upon their bigs to play help defense, but they'll need to stay on their assignments tonight.
  • Love and Martin are Minnesota's X-Factors. Both of these guys have had their days against the Thunder, and both have also been shut down. But if both of them want to be successes tonight, they'll have to succeed in their respective areas. Love will have to keep the Thunder's bigs in foul trouble while remaining consistent from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, Kevin Martin will be best served by relying upon his quick shooting rather than trying to post up Derek Fisher.
  • It will be a tough game for the Thunder to win. Yes, the Timberwolves blew out a Westbrookless Thunder earlier this season. No, I don't believe that will happen again. However, I don't think the Thunder are capable of dominating this game, either. On Thursday night, the Nets were able to basically go small, cover shooters really well, and ignore the Thunder's bigs inside. The Thunder couldn't punish them for doing so, so they had to rely way too heavily upon the playmaking ability of Durant and Jackson. The same story's probably going to unfold tonight, and the Thunder will have to grind out this game in the final moments.

In terms of rotational updates, the Timberwolves seem to the in the process of integrating Alexey Shved into a 9 man rotation. He's struggling to develop a consistent offense and doesn't have much of a long-range shot, but he has excellent court vision, good ball protection, and good rebounding ability for his position. Results have been mixed, but he looks like the team's best option for expanding their rotation at this point.

On the Thunder's side of things, Thursday's game seemed to confirm that the Thunder's bench hierarchy is not set in stone. The able veteran Nick Collison was only able to grab token minutes in the first half, while rookie Steven Adams nearly tripled the time Collison spent on the floor. Meanwhile, Perry Jones III has registered a few DNP-CDs this year and seemed to be at the bottom of the rotation. But on Thursday, he led the bench in minutes, even registering more time than starters Reggie Jackson and Thabo Sefolosha. Really, the only players guaranteed to get extended minutes at this point are Durant, Ibaka, and Jackson. Everyone else just seems to be on call for the right situation.

Anyway, tonight's game should be a fun one to watch, and I bet both teams will have significant runs. I'm gonna go with the Timberwolves in this one just because the odds seem stacked in their favor. The Timberwolves are inconsistent and the Thunder need ballhandling, so I could see either team having some sort of random failing that catches up with them. In any case, I'd really like the Thunder to win this one, because they've gotta get some positive energy going within their division, where they've accumulated a 5-3 record.

Prediction: Minnesota Timberwolves 104, Oklahoma City Thunder 101.

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