Brace yourself, ladies and gentlemen. The Timberwolves are on the road while lacking the services of Nikola Pekovic and Alexey Shved in a Saturday night matchup in Charlotte, NC. Having lost their past 6 games, the Wolves are in desperate need of a victory before things spiral further out of control.
Greg Stiemsma will start for the injured Pekovic, and Luke Ridnour and Ricky Rubio will once again make up Minnesota’s starting backcourt. Tricky Ricky has had a very hard time adjusting to the flow of the NBA as he continues to play on a weak left knee, hurting his ability to accelerate, cut, and jump, which has ultimately hindered his ability to finish at the rim. However, the Spaniard has been able to provide positive contributions from his passing and defense, and just needs more time to gain proper strength around the recovering area of his knee.
Minnesota looks to avenge their previous loss to Charlotte earlier this season at the Target Center, and is set to battle an inexperienced yet talented young squad assembled by Michael Jordan. The Bobcats may likely be fighting for the number one overall selection in next summers draft, but have done an impressive job slowly building up a promising core of high-character players.
Player to watch:
Kemba Walker – After an inconsistent rookie season, the former UConn standout has enjoyed a breakout season this season posting averages of 17.7 ppg, 5.7 apg, 3.4 rpg and an outstanding 19.22 PER. Given Charlotte’s 10-32 record, Walker has flown somewhat under the radar this season and is quietly becoming one of the top young guards in the NBA. Having started all 42 games for the Bobcats this season, the versatile guard is proving to be quite durable in a rigorous league. I expect JJ Barea to match up the best with Walker for the Pups, given his quickness and low center of gravity. Nonetheless, Minnesota is going to have its hands full tonight.
Match-up to watch:
Andrei Kirilenko vs. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Last summer’s number two overall selection takes on a much more refined, veteran version of himself in Andrei Kirilenko. Both wings demonstrate impressive length and athleticism, but do not excel in one particular area. Instead, each player has contributed in many different ways for their respective team, providing rebounds, steals and blocks outside of efficient scoring. I have been a huge MKG fan since his introduction at Kentucky, and am excited to see how the young buck fares against a player with virtually the same skill set. The 19-year-old has enjoyed a tremendous rookie campaign, averaging 10.1 ppg and 6.1 rpg for the improving young Bobcats squad.
Taking on a team that has lost its past 16 home games, the Wolves are currently on a six game slide and look to fend off an inferior opponent on the road. Minnesota has lost 10 of its past 11 road games, and is a combined 6-16 on the road this season. I see the Bobcats as a more talented team due to the Wolves’ injury problems, but I have a feeling that the Pups’ veteran leadership is not going to allow the team to drop arguably their easiest road game of the season.
Final score prediction: Twolves 92, Bobcats 83
Three stars of the game predictions:
- Luke Ridnour
- Andrei Kirilenko
- Kemba Walker