The Timberwolves will host the league-best San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night and hope to bring the same effort and energy that they displayed in the fourth-quarter in their latest loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. Coming off his best performance of the season in which he recorded 15 points and 14 assists, Ricky Rubio will be matched up against perennial All-Star and future Hall of Fame point guard Tony Parker.
Tim Duncan is expected to play after an MRI on his injured right ankle showed no structural damage. Once again Minnesota will face one of the top power forwards in the NBA and will have their hands full in the paint. Derrick Williams, who has really struggled since the return of Wolves head coach Rick Adelman, will need to really step up on the defensive end if the Pups are to have a decent chance tonight. The undersized “tweener” forward will defend a taller, longer and stronger player in Duncan who is probably the best power forward to ever play the game. At the tender age of 36, Timmy D is not only enjoying an All-Star season, but also arguably his best season in the past five years. Give a lot of credit to San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich for knowing how to take care of his aging team.
Andrei Kirilenko will sit tonight due to a strained quad and rebounding will definitely be an issue for the shorthanded Pups. I do not like to be pessimistic, but unless Ricky and Dante have breakout games, tonight could be a tough 48 minutes for Minnesota.
Player to watch:
Kawhi Leonard – With no AK-47, the second year player out of San Diego State has an opportunity to exploit the Wolves on the perimeter and in the paint. A tremendous rebounder and defender, Leonard meshed well with the Spurs group of veterans since day 1 and made many teams pay for allowing him to slip to the 15th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. Many have compared him to former Spurs defensive specialist Bruce Bowen, and at only 21 years of age the sky is the limit for the young forward.
Match-up to watch:
Ricky Rubio vs. Tony Parker – Parker is one of the top transition playmakers in the NBA, and at the age of 30 does not appear to have lost a step. However, he will not have an easy day with Rubio defending him, and Tricky Ricky hopes to ride the confidence from his good last week of play into a game that very few expect the T-Wolves to win. Although the Spaniard is still not 100% as he regains strength in his knee, his ability to pick apart slower defenses should provide him with a few opportunities tonight. Last season we saw Ricky enjoy success against older teams that included the Spurs, but that was back when he had fellow star Kevin Love at his side.
The Pups have steadily improved since Adelman returned to his head coaching duties, but face a very tough opponent in a nationally televised game. I expect Minnesota to put up a good fight and I predict that Rubio and Dante will both have solid performances, but I cannot see the Pups escaping this one.
Final score prediction: Timberwolves 82, Spurs 91
Three stars of the game predictions:
- Tim Duncan
- Kawhi Leonard
- Ricky Rubio