Setting the stage:
The Pups come into the forthcoming week with an 18-19 record, falling to the Spurs last night and failing to get above .500 for roughly the 98th time this season. As I have stated a number of times in recent weeks, this team must go on a run and put together a string of victories and make up some ground on the teams ahead of them in the Western Conference.
The Wolves are currently in tenth place in the Conference, a game and a half behind the ninth seeded Denver Nuggets and three and a half games behind the Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks for the seventh and eighth seeds. They have beaten the Mavs in two of three games this season, but have lost two already to the Nuggets and just lost to the Suns this past week. I’m no rocket scientist, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night … but that isn’t good.
Coach Adelman’s crew continues to put up points and allows their opponent to do the same. The team remains second in the league in scoring at 107ppg, but is giving up 102.4 points a night. It is more than a little concerning that the team either blows opponents out or loses close games. Some of this goes on the coaches, but the players have to find a way to execute and close out games. The returns of Ronny Turiaf and Chase Budinger may help this a bit, but the Wolves’ starters are really the ones accountable.
Game 39: Wednesday, 1/15, 7pm – Sacramento Kings @ Timberwolves (TV: FS North)
The Pups have two days off before the Kings come into town Wednesday night. This gives them some time to practice with the full roster intact. An additional benefit for this game is that the Kings will be playing Tuesday night in Indiana.
Opponent to watch:
Rudy Gay – Rudy is shooting the ball much better since joining the Kings (52% from the field for Sacramento, vs. 39% during his first 18 games of the season for the Raptors). He is, or at least can be, a dynamic scorer that will likely need to be checked by Corey Brewer for the vast majority of the evening. I don’t want to see Adelman give Budinger too much time with this task, as it could get ugly.
Despite the raucous reaction I expect for Derrick Williams’ return (…) the Wolves catch a break, getting a bad team on the back half of a back to back. Final score: Timberwolves 115, Kings 98
Game 40: Friday, 1/17, 6pm – Timberwolves @ Toronto Raptors (TV: FS North)
The Raptors enter the week with an 18-17 record and have games Monday and Wednesday night before Friday’s game. They are pulling this off with defense, as the team is fourth in the league, only allowing 96.5ppg. When looking through their lineup, it screams “underwhelming”. However, they are currently the four seed in the Eastern Conference.
Opponent to watch:
Jonas Valanciunas – I literally had no idea who to pick from their roster, so we are going with Jonas. It will be a little interesting to see how he matches up with Nikola Pekovic and if he can find an advantage against our man in the middle. (Note: I expect Pek to bulldoze his way to a big game.)
I have no idea what to expect from this game so I’ll make it the first game the Wolves win by four points or less. #Analysis. Final score: Timberwolves 102, Raptors 98
Game 41: Saturday, 1/18, 7pm – Utah Jazz @ Timberwolves (TV: NONE)
No local TV coverage for this one against a divisional rival, who also happens to be the worst team in the Conference. The Jazz are struggling this season despite several high lottery picks on the roster. When you are giving Richard Jefferson 27 minutes per game, things might not be on the up and up.
Opponent to watch:
Trey Burke – Several Wolves’ fans wanted Flip to keep Trey Burke with the ninth pick of the draft. However, we all know what has happened since, with Shabazz Muhammad putting up decent numbers this past week in the NBA D-League. Burke has been solid but not spectacular to this point in the season, averaging 13.3ppg, 5.3apg, and 3.3rpg.
Wolves need to beat the teams that are at the bottom of the league. Final score: Timberwolves 106, Jazz 94
This is another opportunity for the Wolves to go on a mini-run and collect a few W’s. Let’s do this! Let’s go Wolves! (I made it through a whole preview without mentioning Kevin Love or Ricky Rubio!)