Timberpups Game Preview
The 7-8 Minnesota Timberwolves will begin a two-game road trip against the 10-7 Philadelphia 76ers tonight, and will not yet witness Ricky Rubio’s highly anticipated season debut for at least two games. Although cleared to play, Rubio has had less than a full week of practice time as he returns from a torn ACL suffered in March.
The 76ers are 3-1 in their past four games led by up-and-comers Jrue Holiday and Thaddeus Young, and have played well as a team despite the highly-publicized absence of offseason acquisition Andrew Bynum. Bynum has been unable to play this season due to recurring knee problems, and recently gained negative publicity for injuring his knee bowling (yes, bowling). Last season’s Western Conference All-Star starting center remains without a timetable for return, and it appears that the gamble that Philly made by giving up All-Star Andre Igoudala and promising young prospects Nikola Vucevic and Moe Harkless may have been a bad one.
The Wolves will once again be without starting SF Andrei Kirilenko, which will mark the third straight game the oft-injured forward will miss due to back spasms. On the court Kirilenko has been everything Minnesota expected and more, and the Pups will greatly miss his defense in what could have been a favorable matchup against fellow tweener-forward Thaddeus Young.
Not too long ago, the Wolves drew the 4th overall selection in the 2010 NBA Draft and witnessed coveted prospect Evan Turner go to the 76ers second overall while the Timberwolves were left with the scraps that turned out to be mega draft-bust Wesley Johnson. Nearly two years later, Johnson is already off the Wolves team riding the bench in Phoenix, while Turner has continued to show glimpses of becoming a nice piece to a young and talented 76ers core. While inconsistent at times, Turner is beginning to find his groove averaging 14.1 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 4.1 assists in nearly 35 minutes per game. With Igoudala gone, the 6-foot-7 SG was called on to take on much increased responsibility and production, and he has done that so far this season.
The Pups will need to rely heavily on the services of Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic if they are to take one in Philly. The strength and grit of the Timberwolves frontcourt is clearly the team’s competitive advantage, as they are able to establish inside position and attack the offensive boards as well as any PF-C combination in the NBA. When considering how poorly the Wolves have shot from outside this season, they are a much more efficient team offensively when running the offense through the post and kicking out when faced with double-teams.
The game kicks off at 6:00 PM and will be broadcasted on local TV. Here is my prediction for the Three Stars of the Game:
- Kevin Love
- Nikola Pekovic
- Jrue Holiday