Setting the stage: The Timberwolves travel to Chicago to face the Bulls in the second game of a back to back for our Pups. Game time is set for 7pm for all of you in the Central region, but this is also a self-reminder that the game starts at 8pm on the East coast. Yes, our first game day preview article has East coast bias. Deal with it.
The Twolves won a thriller last night at home vs. Indiana, despite not having Barea and losing Roy for the second half. The win moves the Pups record to 4-1 and they lead the division very early in the season! As announced on Friday, the Twolves will be without JJ Barea for tonight’s game (and potentially again vs. Dallas). Brandon Roy never returned to the court in the second half of Friday’s game in order to rest a sore right knee. We’ll probably see a good amount of this over the course of the season, so I need to start setting my own expectations a little better (after hyperventilating for a few minutes last night). All indications are that Brandon traveled with the team to Chicago but no news on whether or not he will suit up later this evening (as of this write-up in the early AM).
The Bulls had Friday off after losing to Oklahoma City on Thursday night, dropping their record to 3-2 for the season. This is another big, physical test for the Wolves after facing Indiana less than 24 hours ago. The Bulls are a defensive juggernaut and led by a very strong frontcourt of Deng, Noah, and Boozer, with Taj Gibson coming off the bench as a solid performer for 20 mpg or so. There are no tears to be shed here for the missing Derrick Rose, as the Twolves look to continue their early season successes without its core components of Love and Rubio, along with Barea and potentially Roy.
Player to watch: AK47 – It will be interesting to see who the coaching staff has Kirilenko on to start the game. I imagine they will start the game with AK47 on Deng. However, if Boozer gets hot again, like he did in the preseason game against the Wolves, I suspect there will be a change and the staff will slide Andrei over to the PF spot. At the same time, Andrei will need to continue to fill the stat sheet in order to counteract what is coming from Chicago’s frontcourt.
This might be a game where Chase Budinger and Dante Cunningham see big minutes, in order to cover Deng while Andrei slides over to the 4 spot. I just don’t see how DWill matches up at either forward spot against Chicago.
Match-up to watch: In a draft shell of this pregame, I had jotted down Roy vs. Hamilton despite the obvious answer here probably being Pekovic vs. Noah. Now that Roy is a question mark for the game, I’ll stick with the obvious answer. Pekovic is coming off of a rough game against the Pacers big men – Hibbert and West particularly. It wasn’t until the 4th quarter that we really saw anything from Pek. Noah is off to a very strong start this season, averaging 14.6 points, 9.6 rebounds and filling the rest of the box score as well. Noah is playing just under 40 minutes per game and will be a handful for Pek.
Predictions: As much as this pains me, I have to say the Bulls pull this one out. They had Friday off and got to sit on the loss to OKC for a bit. The Wolves are coming off a tough game on Friday against the Pacers and are forced to travel for the second of the back to back. This feels like the end of the small streak of wins for the team and my streak of game day recaps for the site.
Final score prediction: Chicago 92 – Minnesota 84
Three stars of the game predictions:
- Carlos Boozer
- Luol Deng
- Andrei Kirilenko
Despite those predictions, let’s go Wolves!