Time: 7PM CST
Location: Chesapeake Arena, OKC
The Thunder are back at home a night after barely surviving the Jazz in Utah. The Thunder were pushed to the limit, hanging on only as Jazz star Donovan missed a free throw that could have resulted in a tie and potential overtime. OKC is lucky to have been spared the extra period of action, because tonight they face a Timberwolves team trying to find themselves after the departure of Jimmy Butler.
The Wolves have struggled as of late, dropping six of their last seven, largely the fault of a porous defense. Also, most importantly, they are weak at the guard spot. Starting point guard Jeff Teague will be out and Derrick Rose, experiencing a resurgence this season, is questionable. That leaves the Wolves with backups Tyus Jones and Jerryd Bayless, and that is essentially the fulcrum of tonight’s game. If the Thunder target those two backups defensively, OKC’s proclivity to force perimeter players into turnovers and bad shots will have a significant impact on Minnesota being able to get the ball into the hands of their primary offensive weapons, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.
On offense, the Thunder will be looking to turn bad Timberwolves possessions into transition baskets, both at the rim and on the perimeter, with Paul George, Alex Abrines, and Terrance Ferguson filling the lanes. Russell Westbrook, who is notoriously struggling with his shot, would do well to focus on the things that have been working for him — namely, working out of the post for shots and passing opportunities. Look for Westbrook to keep his shot attempts low and his assist-hunting crosshairs focused.
The Thunder possess clear advantages tonight, but with a short turnaround, you never know if heavy legs will catch up while some random player on the opposing team locks in for a career night. The Thunder would benefit by taking advantage of the Wolves’ guards early, and over the course of the game, their defense and playmaking will drive the win. I’m sure George for one would appreciate a game where he didn’t need to get 40 to keep OKC on the rails.
Who do you think will win tonight?
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