Setting the Stage:
The Minnesota Timberwolves are continuing to adjust to a new-look roster and starting lineup, but luckily for them, one of the “new” faces—as we all know—is none other than Kevin Garnett. The Big Ticket has played in two home games since joining the Wolves, and he’s notched one win and one loss.
This week promises to be interesting, as Minnesota has three home games. The Target Center has been packed since the news broke of KG’s return. It seems probable that he will play in all of this week’s games, being home, but fans shouldn’t count on too many minutes from the veteran.
Game 59: Monday, 3/2, 7pm – Los Angeles Clippers at Timberwolves (TV: FS North)
Minnesota last faced the 39-21 Clippers on Dec. 1, and the Wolves came up short in the 121-101 final score. Performances to note from Minnesota were Shabazz Muhammad (18 points and 10 boards). Andrew Wiggins (14 points), and 13 points contributed by Robbie Hummel off the bench.
Three of the Wolves starters in that game—Thad Young, Corey Brewer and Mo Williams—are no longer with the team, and LA will be facing a whole new lineup. Chris Paul is a tricky opponent, and Jamal Crawford has been scoring a ton of points lately, especially with Blake Griffin out. However, the Wolves have a much better chance at winning this game if they play defense the way they did against the Wizards Wednesday night.
Opponent to Watch:
Chris Paul—The Clippers point guard is averaging 18.1 points, 10 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game. In December, Paul scored 12 points and dished out eight assists against the Wolves. All eyes will be on the Ricky Rubio and Paul, as each is considered a top passer and defensive PG in the league.
Game 60: Wednesday, 3/4, 7pm – Denver Nuggets @ Timberwolves (TV: FS North)
Wednesday will be the fourth meeting of the season for Denver and Minnesota. The Wolves lost their first two matchups, but they grabbed a win in Denver on Jan. 17. All five starters scored in double digits that night as they walked away with the 113-105 win. Andrew Wiggins went off for a season-high 31 points while also grabbing nine rebounds and four assists, while Robbie Hummel filled in as a starter and added 15 points for the evening.
The Nuggets are currently 20-39 and are allowing their opponents to score an average of 104.2 points per game. They will be playing back-to-back games, as they play the Bucks at home Tuesday night before travelling to Minnesota. The Wolves will need to take advantage of a nice home stretch and fresh legs as they look to grab a second win over Denver.
Opponent to Watch:
Ty Lawson – There’s no way around it; this guy is a huge offensive threat. Lawson is averaging 16.3 points per game, and his most impressive stat is the 9.8 assists he is dishing out per game. He promises to be a good matchup for Ricky Rubio, who is averaging 8.5 assists per night. In Minnesota’s last game against the Nuggets, Lawson led the team with 22 points.
Game 61: Saturday, 3/7, 7pm – Portland Trailblazers @ Timberwolves (TV: FS North)
The Timberwolves are 1-1 against the Blazers this season, winning their most recent matchup 90-82 on Dec. 10. Both teams shot under 40 percent in that game, and the Wolves should only assume that Portland will have a stronger offense this time around. The advantage for Minnesota, however, is that the Blazers will be coming in after already playing three games this week.
Portland is currently ranked No. 3 in the NBA for rebounding, averaging 45.7 boards per game. KG and the Wolves will certainly have to play tough defense against this squad, and Payne will probably get some decent minutes Saturday as well.
Opponent to Watch:
Damien Lillard – The 24-year-old PG has been the thorn in Minnesota’s side on more than one occasion. In December, Lillard tallied 23 points, six rebounds and five assists against the Wolves. He is explosive offensively, and he often determines the pace of the game. Rubio and Zach LaVine will have their work cut out for them Saturday.
This stretch promises to be a busy one for the Wolves, but at least all three games will be at home. The three biggest factors for Minnesota heading into this week are Kevin Garnett, Adreian Payne and Ricky Rubio. Team defense is a must in all three scenarios, and Payne and Garnett automatically set the tempo on that side of the floor. Payne doesn’t have much experience in the NBA yet, but he has shown some real potential in the post. Rubio will also need to be spot-on when facing three great point guards in Paul, Lawson and Lillard. If Rubio cannot move the ball effectively and find a way to make shots, the Wolves will struggle against the opponents’ back courts.
My prediction: The Timberwolves will come out of this week 2-1.
In addition: The team will be participating in Minnesota’s Taste of the Timberwolves event at the Target Center Thursday evening.