Setting the Stage:
Week 6 was not very kind to our beloved pups. An 0-4 record dropped Minnesota to 4-15 overall, which puts them in last place in the loaded West. Among the week 6 defeats were a loss to the previously winless Sixers and an overtime loss to Houston. The good news? Minnesota is only one win behind both Utah (5-15) and Los Angeles (5-16). Here’s a preview of this weeks games – where the Wolves have a shot to climb out of the cellar with a few wins.
Ricky Rubio: Sprained Ankle – Out until January
Kevin Martin: Broken Wrist – Out indefinitely
Nikola Pekovic: Wrist and Ankle soreness – Out at least another week
Ronny Turiaf: Hip – Out at least another week
Mo Williams: Back Spasms – Missed last two games, should be back soon
Shabazz Muhammad: Sore Ankle – Questionable for tonight
Game 20: Monday, 12/8, 7pm – Golden State Warriors @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)
Monday marks Minnesota’s first meeting this season with the Western Conference leading Warriors (17-2). The Warriors will enter Target Center riding an impressive 12 game winning streak. Lead by rookie coach Steve Kerr, the Warriors are sustained their offensive excellence with surprisingly efficient defense, as their defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) of 98.1 is best in the league.
What to Watch:
Klay Thompson: The son of former Golden Gopher Mychal Thompson, Klay was reportedly offered by Golden State to Minnesota in exchange for Kevin Love this summer. The trade never came to fruition, but Wolves fans won’t forget Mychal Thompson telling ESPN Radio in June that if Klay was traded, he would have to, “talk him down off the ledge.”
For Klay, this will be his first meeting with Minnesota since the talks surfaced. In his fourth season, Klay is averaging career highs in both points (21.2) and 3-point shooting (44.8%). Stopping Thompson will be crucial if the pups want to pull off the massive upset.
Game 21: Wednesday, 12/10, 7pm – Timberpups @ Portland Trail Blazers (TV: FS North)
With a record of 16-4, Portland leads the Northwest Division and is currently in a tie with Houston for second in the West. In their first meeting with the pups on Nov. 30, Portland defeated Minnesota 107-93 behind point totals of 26 and 23 for LaMarcus Aldridge and Wesley Matthews, respectively.
What to Watch:
Wesley Matthews: In 20 career games against Minnesota, Matthews has averaged 17.7 points per game on 44.3% shooting from 3. The only team he averages more points against is Utah (18.7). With the Wolves inability to defend anything beyond the arc this season, another big game from Matthews should be expected.
Game 22: Friday, 12/12, 7pm – Timberpups @ Oklahoma City Thunder (TV: FS North)
The rejuvenated Thunder (7-13) will play Minnesota for the first time this season on Friday. Oklahoma City recently welcomed Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant back from injuries, and have gone 2-1 since Durant’s return. In their abscence, several players, including Reggie Jackson, were forced to expand their role. Jackson is averaging career highs in minutes (36.8) points (17.9), assists (6.8) and rebounds (4.9).
What to Watch:
Russell Westbrook: Westbrook will provide a major challenge to whoever defends him, including Zach LaVine, who many have projected to develop into a similar player as Westbrook. Westbrook has only played six games since returning from injuring, but is on a tear, combining career highs in points (23.7) and 3-point percentage (41.2%). His athleticism, power, and fiery personality combine to make him one heck of a player, and a spectacular dunker.
Game 23: Sunday, 12/14, 6pm – Los Angeles Lakers @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)
Minnesota’s last game of the week also appears to be the easiest. A rematch with the Lakers, who Minnesota defeated 120-119 on Nov. 29, might be just what the Wolves need. In their first matchup, LaVine went off for 28 points, and a Thaddeus Young free throw in the final seconds put the Lakers away.
What to Watch:
Kobe Bryant: Bryant currently sits fourth on the all-time points list, just 62 behind Michael Jordan. With just two games remaining (Kings, Spurs) for the Lakers before facing Minnesota, it’s conceivable, if not likely, that Bryant could pass Jordan on Sunday. Whether or not he’s within range of the record on Sunday, you can expect Kobe to be up for the game. He’ll be looking for revenge on Minnesota after missing a game-winning three at the buzzer the last time these two teams met.
In what is hopefully the last week the Wolves are without Pekovic, Minnesota faces a murderer’s row of elite Western conference teams, plus the struggling Lakers. Anything more than one win this week might be asking too much of the shorthanded Wolves, but it’s within the realm of possibility that they can pull off an upset or two.