- Tip Off: 7:30 p.m. (PT)
- Television: CSN-BA
- Offensive Efficiency: 99.2 (20th in NBA)
- Defensive Efficiency: 98.7 (6th in NBA)
- Points: Kevin Love, 29.0 PPG
- Rebounds: Kevin Love, 13.5 RPG
- Assists: Brandon Roy, 4.6 APG
- Steals: Kevin Love, 2.5 SPG
- Blocks: Andrei Kirilenko, 1.9 BPG
- Field Goal Percentage: Andrei Kirilenko, 54.8% FG
- 3-Point Field Goal Percentage: Luke Ridnour, 37.1% 3PT FG
Scope the Opposition: A Wolf Among Wolves.
Preview: The Minnesota Timberwolves are coming off back-to-back losses at the hands of the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers; and will be looking to rebound tonight at Oracle Arena when they take on the Golden State Warriors in a rematch of a contest the Dubs won just about a week ago.
The last time these two teams met, Golden State won on Minnesota’s home floor, but things are different this time around.
In the contest tonight, the Timberwolves will have their two best interior players in Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic, who were both absent in the first contest.
This evidently completely changes the landscape of the matchup for both teams because the Wolves will now be operating from a position of strength on the interior.
Minnesota is unquestionably a better scoring team with their two top guns on the interior, because they are a more potent scoring team as well as a better rebounding one. Indeed, Love and Pekovic do a great job of getting themselves into position for offensive rebounds, which leads to second chance opportunities. Despite the absence of Love for most of the season as well as Pekovic’s occasional missed games, the Wolves are averaging 13 offensive rebounds per game (sixth in the NBA).
The areas of concern for the Warriors tonight will have to be defending the front of the rim as Rick Adelman tries to take advantage of his size in the paint. When Love and Pekovic are in the lineup, the Wolves like to run a play that Stan Van Gundy loved using in Miami for Shaquille O’Neal and then Dwight Howard in Orlando.
It’s a misdirection play in which Pekovic sets up on the low block and Ridnour runs a pick-and-pop with Love to get the defense scrambling. As Love moves into the open space on the floor at the top of the key (either free throw line or 3-point line depending on screen angle and how defense rotates), Pek vacates the low block and acts as if cutting across the lane but stations himself right underneath the basket where he is perhaps the NBA’s most immovable object considering his brute force and strength.
This action results in Love having the option to take the open shot, or feed his teammate with a crisp pass as his defender is sealed behind him and he goes in for the basket or gets fouled.
The Warriors will be in for a tough matchup given Adelman’s creative plays as well as the tandem of Andrei Kirlenko and Kevin Love that do a good job of making split second decisions and finding players cutting at the basket for easy scores.
Because Minnesota shoots a lot of free throws (second in the league), it will put the onus on the Dubs to execute their half-court offense since transition opportunities might be few and far between.
Although the return of Kevin Love makes tonight’s battle infinitely more difficult for the Golden State Warriors, it sure makes the NBA as a whole more interesting and more entertaining.
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