Setting the stage:
First and foremost, if all goes to plan, allow me to start with the following: He’s baaaaaaaack!!! Ricky Rubio is scheduled to make his season debut tonight for the Pups against the Mavs! Boy wonder will look to test his leg and self-confidence for the first time and I couldn’t be happier. If there is a late change in this plan and Rubio doesn’t suit up the Wolves, pretend this paragraph never happened.
The Pups are back in Minnesota after a quick trip to New Orleans for Friday night’s game, which stretched the team’s winning streak to three games and puts them two games over .500 and in 6th place in the Western Conference. The Wolves have shown a better ability to put the ball in the hoop this week and have gone over 100 points in each game. Their team defense remains very strong when AK47 is in the lineup and maintains its 4th place ranking in the NBA in points allowed per game at 93.1. At the time of this writing, there is no new news on Kevin Love’s right hand. The x-rays taken last night were negative, so unless something pops up when the players arrive at Target Center, I would expect him to play tonight. (We’ll keep you updated in the Comments section below once an announcement is made, one way or the other.)
The Mavs come into Target Center off of an embarrassing loss in Toronto on Friday night, losing 95-74, scoring less than 20 points in each of the final three quarters. Ouch. I very clearly overrated the Mavs this season, even without Dirk Nowitzki. Maybe this is an overstatement, as they are also treading water, just not as well as the Pups have thus far. The Mavs are only one game below .500 right now.
While Dirk Nowitzki continues to sit, the Mavs are being led by OJ Mayo and several old timers, particularly Vince Carter and Shawn Marion. Mayo is, of course, the one player that I would have liked to have seen David Kahn and company pursue this past offseason. When he signed his two year contract with a player option, I wasn’t sure why or how we missed out on him. While turning the ball over a bit too much, his overall play this season has been superb. While we wait and see how and when Brandon Roy will return to action, one can only continue to wonder if the Wolves will go after Mayo a bit harder this coming offseason if he does in fact opt out of his contract. (Please!)
Player to watch:
Ricky Rubio – Seriously, did you think it would be anyone else? Rubio’s return should light a spark on this club and move beyond this week’s negative headlines and sound bytes from its other cornerstone. It will be interesting to see how Adelman handles Ricky’s time on the court. You want the guy playing enough to get into a groove and to start improving his conditioning. At the same time, you still need to be careful of overworking him too soon. Much of Ricky’s performance will depend on his self-confidence with the knee, particularly on cutting to the basket and horizontal movement and shifting on the defensive end. I would love to see him drain a three pointer on his first shot attempt just to get everyone up and out of their seats (again).
I’m not sure I’m adequately detailing how exciting it is to have Rubio back in the lineup. Just know that I’ll likely be giving a standing ovation from a living room in New Jersey tonight. Don’t judge me.
Match-up to watch:
Nikola Pekovic vs. Chris Kaman. Pek has had his ups and downs so far this month, with a few quiet games on the offensive side of the ball. It will be important for Pek to get going early and often. He’ll need to control the paint and try to draw a few fouls on Dallas to get them in trouble, as they lack depth at the Center position. Despite limited minutes and an off night on Friday, Kaman is on an incredibly productive run for the Mavs, shooting the ball at an efficient clip (53% on the season) and putting up a career high PER right now at 17.4. He might be a tough matchup for Pek given his desire to face up to the basket and hit short jumpers in and around the paint.
The Mavs will be looking for revenge after we beat them in Dallas earlier in the season, but there is no way the Pups lose at home on the night Ricky Rubio returns to the court.
Final score prediction: Twolves 104, Mavs 98
Three stars of the game predictions:
- Ricky Rubio (I’m a complete homer on this one, only once though, I promise. Maybe.)
- Alexey Shved
- Chris Kaman
Let’s go Wolves!