Setting the stage:
The Wolves enter another busy week in the early months of the 2013/14 season with another 4 games, playing every other day after tonight’s back to back game. Our Pups enter the week on the Mason-Dixon line of .500 ball after a gritty win in Memphis Sunday night.
Similar storylines continue to exist for this roster – very strong on offense, a work in progress on defense, and a desperate need for help from the bench so that the starting lineup doesn’t start to keel over come March and April. The Pups are 4th in the league in scoring at 105.5ppg, 6th in rebounding (45.2rpg) and 8th in assists (23.0apg). Unfortunately, the team remains in the bottom quarter of the league on defense (24th entering Monday’s play) giving up 101.7 points per game.
Game 26: Wednesday, 12/16, 6:30pm – Timberwolves @ Boston Celtics (TV: FS North & NBA TV)
Coming in from Memphis after Sunday’s game, along with the fact that Boston has been off since a Friday night victory against the Knicks, this might be a game that we look back on and say, “Had we only beaten the Wizards and Celtics early on in the season, we wouldn’t be worrying about scratching our way into the playoffs these last two weeks”.
The Celtics aren’t a very good team, particularly on the offensive end of the floor. However, they are 5th in the league defensively, giving up only 95.7ppg and are overachieving thus far this season. Brad Stevens has the team floating slightly under the .500 market at 11-14 … which of course is good enough to lead the Atlantic Division. (Good grief)
Opponent to watch:
Kelly Olynyk – Not necessarily the big man on campus for the Celtics, but you may remember the rumors that Flip really liked Olynyk in this past year’s draft and had he not been taken by the C’s, he likely wouldn’t have gotten past the Wolves when they were on the clock. Olynyk is averaging a little over 7 points and 5 rebounds a game in about 22 minutes a night … which is significantly more playing time than Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng are seeing these days. (That isn’t an insult given the very different projections for these two teams, just a fact.)
Despite everything I point out above, the Wolves are the better team and they need to start firing on all cylinders. This is a step in that direction. Final score: Timberwolves 103, Celtics 94
Game 27: Wednesday, 12/18, 7pm – Portland Trail Blazers @ Timberwolves (TV: FS North)
The team that I was so painstakingly wrong with in my preseason predictions. I was looking for a little bit of a tumultuous season in Portland with Aldridge’s contract coming to an end. The Blazers have proven me very wrong and are looking like one of the best team’s in the league, with a record of 21-4 coming into this week.
The Blazers will play in Cleveland on Tuesday night, which is good news for the Wolves who should be home and well rested for Wednesday’s game. (There is more snow in the forecast for the East Coast Monday/Tuesday.)
Opponent to watch:
LaMarcus Aldridge – Aldridge is having a career year and some pundits are making the argument that he is the best PF in the league now. He’s averaging 23.5ppg and 10.9rpg, with a team high PER at 23.8. All of that said, he’s not the best PF in the league and will be playing against said player when he faces the Pups Wednesday night (Kevin Love, for those of you left wondering).
Tough game for the Wolves and one that would help me feel better about the team moving forward against the rest of the West. Final score: Timberwolves 112, Blazers 108
Game 28: Friday, 12/20, 9:30pm – Timberwolves @ Los Angeles Lakers (TV: FS North and ESPN)
One of the teams right behind the Pups in the standings, the Lakers enter the week at 11-12 and have welcomed back a guy named Kobe Bryant to the lineup. Rumors persist that he is pretty good at basketball, but I’ll need to see it with my own eyes.
Opponent to watch:
Wesley Johnson – Ha – just another reason to talk about the worst Timberwolves first round pick of all time. Johnson is actually putting up NBA caliber numbers with 8.4ppg and is averaging over 1 block and 1 steal per game? What? Let’s get grounded here: Wes Johnson hasn’t attempted a free throw since Friday, November 29th. Yep. That is 6 games and a minimum of 20mpg in each. That’s more like it.
I can’t stand the Lakers, Mike D’Antoni, and obviously have an issue with Wes. Final score: Timberwolves 115, Lakers 102
Game 29: Sunday, 12/22, 8:30pm – Timberwolves @ Los Angeles Clippers (TV: FS North Plus)
In a bizarre scheduling quirk, the Pups will play back-to-back road games in LA for the second time this season. The Wolves have been unsuccessful in two attempts against the Clippers, losing both games by a combined six points. However, the “W” is the only thing that matters and it will be important for the Wolves to get this one.
Opponent to watch:
Chris Paul – Paul is having another stellar season, putting up big numbers across the board: coming into this week averaging 19.7ppg, 11.5apg, 4.6 rpg, and 2.3 spg. Ricky Rubio will once again have his hands full with Paul and will need to stay out of foul trouble. Note that Rubio is ahead of Paul in the steals per game category at 2.9pg, good for second in the league behind rookie sensation Michael Carter-Williams.
I hate the thought of picking the Wolves again here, but they really need this one. I’m going to hedge my bets here and predict they will win, but also say that I don’t expect the team to go 4-0 this week. So … there you go. Final score: Timberwolves 101, Clippers 99
So I just, sort of, predicted the Wolves will go 4-0 this week. We’ll see how that goes. There isn’t a game this week that I can point to and say, “it would be OK to lose that one”. They need to beat Boston because it is a team they should beat on paper. They need to win the rest of the week to A. prove they can compete with playoff caliber teams in the West and B. improve their division and conference standings.
How many wins would you predict coming out of these four games? Let’s go Wolves!