Scouting Report: Minnesota Timberwolves
The Minnesota Timberwolves are probably the team that would benefit most if they were in the opposite conference. They’d be sixth in tEast with their 34-35 record, but at seven games back of the final playoff spot in the West, their season is all but over barring a miracle.
The point of the above paragraph is to say that Wednesday night’s opponent is essentially an Eastern Conference playoff team. The Wolves pushed the Hawks hard in Atlanta before falling 120-113, and starting center Nikola Pekovic didn’t play in that game.
Pekovic likely won’t play on Wednesday either. He’s missed the past five games with a sore right ankle and is listed as doubtful. The Hawks struggle at times on the glass, so avoiding him would be a huge break. Minnesota will also be without backup center Ronny Turiaf, who suffered a bone bruise Feb. 19, and could be without backup point guard J.J. Barea, who missed Monday’s game with a sprained left foot.
Injuries have really hurt the Timberwolves the past three years, but one guy who’s healthy this season is All-Star starter and MVP candidate Kevin Love. Love is arguably the best power forward in the league right now and is a matchup nightmare for opponents. He can shoot the three, take bigger players off the dribble, draw fouls and score in the paint. There’s really no easy way to guard him because he can shoot over almost everybody, so making shots difficult and double-teaming him when appropriate will be the keys to keeping him from having a duplicate game to the one he had Feb. 1 when he scored 43 points and grabbed 19 rebounds.
Kevin Martin’s return has been a welcoming sign for Minnesota. He’s second on the team in scoring and is shooting 39 percent from three, so he’s a guy Atlanta will have to keep an eye on. The Hawks did a pretty good job on him in the first game, and DeMarre Carroll will once again be tasked with containing an opposing team’s best wing player.
Of course, you can’t talk about the Timberwolves without mentioning Ricky Rubio. He’s a pass-first point guard who’s always looking to create opportunities for his teammates. He struggles with his perimeter jump shot, so this is one player Jeff Teague can afford to go under on during pick-and-roll situations. Giving Rubio space is the best way to keep him out of the lane, where’s he’s effective at creating those opportunities for himself and others.
Atlanta is focused on improving and playing a consistent 48 minutes. Other than one bad quarter against the Raptors Sunday, they’ve played really good basketball on the road the past four games. Let’s hope that continues against a banged up Wolves team.
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