Setting the stage:
Well, that was not a fun week of basketball for the Wolves. They will enter this week with a 24-27 record, putting them in 11th place in the Western Conference, with a lot of room to make up. The team has lost five of its last six heading into Monday night’s game with the Rockets.
To make matters worse, injuries are starting to pile up for the Wolves’ starters. While they are somewhat fluke injuries, the amount of minutes these guys played early in the season made this somewhat predictable. Nikola Pekovic is day to day, but don’t be surprised if he doesn’t return until after the all-star break. Kevin Martin broke his hand at the end of Friday night’s game against the Pelicans and is out indefinitely. We know that Kevin Love has brought it night in and night out, but he looks gassed and sat out Saturday night. If this were the NFL, Love would be listed as “Questionable” for each of the next two nights, as he has taken a beating over the past week.
So where does that put the Pups? Simply said, in a very tough position. While only one game back of the Nuggets right now (a big game coming this Wednesday night), the Wolves are four games behind Memphis and six games behind Golden State and Dallas for the 7th and 8th seeds. When I wrote about surviving without Pekovic, I didn’t think the basketball gods would add insult to injury with what has happened to Martin and Love.
Game 53: Monday, 2/10, 7pm – Houston Rockets @ Timberpups (TV: FS North & NBA TV)
Despite missing a key ingredient back in November, the Rockets knocked off the Wolves in the only meeting between the teams back in November in Houston. Houston received huge games from Aaron Brooks, Jeremy Lin, and Patrick Beverley … notice a theme there? The Wolves’ backcourt members must show up Monday night.
Houston will be coming into this game off of a road win in Milwaukee on Saturday night. They should be fresh however, as prior to Saturday night’s game, the team had been off since a win at home against Phoenix last Wednesday.
Opponent to watch:
James Harden – Harden missed the game back in November (and the Wolves still lost…) so this was supposed to be an opportunity to match up against Kevin Martin, but now we know that isn’t going to happen. How can the Wolves (namely, Corey Brewer) contain ‘The Beard’?
I can’t see the Wolves pulling this one out without Martin and Pekovic. Final score: Rockets 104, Timberwolves 96
Game 54: Wednesday, 2/12, 7pm – Denver Nuggets @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)
The Nuggets will come into Wednesday’s game looking to complete a four game road swing on a positive note, with the prior game to this in Indiana to take on the Pacers. (A little interesting how many teams include the Minnesota Timberwolves on their Eastern Conference road swings, isn’t it?!)
The Nuggets and Wolves will enter this game neck and neck in the standings, no matter what happens on Monday night for both teams. To say this is an important game is an understatement. The Nuggets have handed the Wolves two losses already this season, both in November. With only one more remaining (3/3 at Denver) on the schedule, the Wolves must win this one.
Opponent to watch:
Ty Lawson – Lawson has matched up well this season against the Pups, averaging 18.5ppg and 7apg. However, he is also turning the ball over quite a bit (4.0pg). Defense from Ricky Rubio and JJ Barea have left something to be desired for much of the season and it will be crucial to try and limit Lawson’s impact in this game.
This game closes out Denver’s road trip, so they might be a little worn out. Add in the fact that the Wolves need this one and here you go: Final score: Timberwolves 105, Nuggets 104
Based on the predictions above, the Wolves would head into the all-star break with a 25-28 record … not exactly where many pegged the team to be at the break. It is going to take an epic performance post all-star break for this team to get into the playoffs. I hope they do not use the injury excuse heading into March and April, as this team was pretty healthy for much of the early months.
Can they do this? Sure. Do I expect this to happen? If you haven’t been following my Twitter rants, let’s just say I have my suspicions unfortunately. In any case, let’s go Wolves!