The Minnesota Timberwolves return home to the Target Center to face Michael Jordan’s Charlotte Bobcats. Despite the rash of injuries, the Twolves split its two road games and are 5-2 on the season. The Bobcats won Tuesday night against Wizards and are a surprising 3-3 on the year. The Pups need to take advantage of the Bobcats playing in the second half of a back to back and win a game that, frankly, should be won.
The Wolves will be without Barea, Pekovic, and Roy tonight. Talk about making this game more difficult than it needs to be. In an earlier draft of this preview, I had figured Pek would be playing and considered this game more or less “a lock”. Now? Not so much. Team Russia has continued to fill in admirably through the loss of each player over the past week, as has Ridnour and Cunningham. However, this team has to play each of those four big minutes and that might have some long term damage if this injury bug lasts much longer. Stiemsma gets the start tonight at the center spot, coming off a rough two game stretch in which he played sparingly and was held scoreless.
Charlotte comes in off a win vs. the Wizards, with rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist putting up some impressive numbers over his last couple of games. MKG had a 25 & 12 evening against Dallas several nights ago, and followed that up with 15 & 8 last night vs. Washington. The other watch-out for the Bobcats is at the combo guard position, with Kemba Walker, Ramon Sessions, and Ben Gordon really being the only legitimate threats on the roster. Note that Gordon missed Tuesday’s game for a family emergency and it is unclear if he is making the trip to Minnesota. At the same time, the local Bobcats team reported during Tuesday’s game that Kemba Walker was a little under the weather. We’ll see if that has any impact on his performance Wednesday night – as he didn’t have much of a problem against Washington, playing 35 minutes and putting up 17 points.
Assuming they became aware of the limitations of their big men, the Bobcats made a minor move on Tuesday, sending Matt Carroll to the Hornets for Hakim Warrick. Warrick was inactive for Tuesday’s game and it remains to be seen when he will make his debut for his new team. While certainly not a true PF, Warrick provides more overall talent for the Bobcats, who can consider playing small much more of the time.
While Charlotte is in the top 10 in scoring in the early part of the season at just under 100 ppg, they are near the bottom of the league in points allowed (~102 per game, down from ~107 before Tuesday’s game). The Wolves have become one of the better defensive teams in the league with its offseason additions and I look forward to seeing the team control the tempo and flow of this game from the outset.
Player to watch
Derrick Williams – If there were ever a game that Derrick Williams should be expected to produce, this would be it. DWill is coming off an embarrassing 12 minute, 2 point game on Monday in Dallas, despite the team being undermanned. It is crystal clear that DWill has a short leash and easily gets into Adelman’s doghouse. However, Charlotte lacks any semblance of strength at the PF spot. Byron Mullens and Tyrus Thomas scream opportunity for Derrick to turn it up a few notches.
Match-up to watch
MKG vs. AK47. I made it no surprise that I really wanted MKG in this year’s draft. The signing of AK47 may put David Kahn in the running for Executive of the Year. These guys are very similar, albeit in very different stages of their career. They are about the same size, with Andrei being slightly taller/longer. Both players do a little bit of everything for their teams, fill the box score, and are high character individuals in the locker room. It will be interesting to see these two go at it, with the possibility of them shutting each other down and holding one another to single digit points for the night.
The Pups need to win this one. Not to straighten out their season, turn around momentum or anything like that. The fact of the matter is, Charlotte is an inferior opponent and good teams beat inferior opponents – even if we are down to a nine man lineup. Good grief …
Final score prediction: Minnesota 90 – Charlotte 86
Three stars of the game predictions:
- Derrick Williams
- Dante Cunningham
- Kemba Walker
Let’s go Wolves!