Minnesota Timberwolves game previews between November 21 and November 27, including games against: Golden State Warriors, Boston Celtics, New Orleans Pelicans, Phoenix Suns.
Another up and down week for the Wolves—the team sits at 2-2 in their past four and 4-8 overall. Disregarding a punchless performance against the Grizzlies, the team played competitively winning against the Lakers and the Sixers, and falling just short to the Hornets. Andrew Wiggins is playing himself into the fringes of all-star discussion—10th in the NBA in points per game at 25.7 and a respectable 20.8 Player Efficiency Rating—and Bjelica has emerged as a small forward, rather than a power forward, after a couple of inspiring performances.
The Wolves host the Celtics on Monday night and then will take a three-game road trip to the west coast. Weaker candidates (Suns and Pelicans) offer road-win opportunities—perhaps the Wolves can snag their first winning week of the year if they can sneak a game from the Celtics or Warriors.
Monday, 21 November 2016 at 08:00 PM ET Home
The 7-6 Celtics began the season expecting to be among the top-tier of the Eastern Conference. While the season is young, and two of their top players in Al Horford and Jae Crowder have had extended injury absences, the team is underperforming. Their defense has struggled and they have yet to put together a stretch of strong performances.
However, this past Sunday marked their first game featuring all eight rational players, and early-season reactions tend to be immature in nature. The Wolves will have to deal with a full roster, and the ever-present coaching of Brad Stevens—this is a tough matchup for the Wolves, but look for a bounce-back performance after the uninspiring Memphis loss.
New Orleans Pelicans
Wednesday, 23 November 2016 at 09:30 PM ET Away
As Anthony Davis is materializing into a defined NBA superstar, the Pelicans are struggling to surround him with complementary talent. Davis received the previous player of the week award, and is average 31.7-11.5-2.1 points-rebounds-assists per game. But despite impressive victories over Boston, Portland, and Charlotte in their past four games, the team is 4-10 and depends on consistent contributions from the likes of Tim Frazier, Jrue Holiday, and Langston Galloway—a large ask.
It seems unlikely that the Pelicans can continue any recent success, but regardless Davis alone can win you any given game. Look for an electric matchup between KAT and Davis. And keep an eye on Wiggins—the Pelicans are devoid of physical wing-stoppers—perhaps this is another opportunity for an Andrew Wiggins’ explosion.
Friday, 25 November 2016 at 09:00 PM ET Away
Another golden opportunity for the Wolves. Similar to the Minnesotan team, Phoenix features a young and talented roster; however, Phoenix appears a few years behind in their timeline. Second-year guard Devin Booker has been playing with the poise of a veteran, and Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight continue to prove they can score the ball individually, but the roster is yet to play as a whole.
Between TJ Warren, Alex Len, and Marquese Chriss Phoenix has three products that manifest promise, but lack consistency. Tyson Chandler, P.J Tucker and Jared Dudley each offer an established veteran presence, but they are not game changers. Rookies Dragan Bender and Tyler Ulis are yet to prove anything. The Wolves greatest struggles have been at the hands of veterans—expect the Wolves to play an unfazed style of basketball in Phoenix.
Golden State Warriors
Saturday, 26 November 2016 at 10:30 PM ET Away
The week ends with a dreaded back-to-back ending in Golden State. The last time these two teams met, the Wolves handed the Warriors their ninth, and final regular season loss in their record setting 2015-16 season. Despite larger complications in the playoffs, don’t assume they forgot about the Wolves.
In last season’s matchup, KAT proved the antichrist to the Warriors death lineup, known for its small-ball methodology. Unfortunately for the rest of the NBA, the death lineup has seen its weakness (Harrison Barnes) replaced with an NBA MVP/God (Kevin Durant). While by Golden State’s distorted standards they have started slow (bad defense, lack of depth, poor effort), they sit at 11-2—good for second in the NBA. Has 11-2 ever depicted a slow start before?
Watch for lineup combinations in this game. The Warriors defense has genuinely struggled with a 110 adjusted rating (24th place), but the offense is blowing teams out of the water with a 116 adjusted rating (1st place). The Wolves are playing a similar style, but are simply much worse at it. Both Thibs and Coach Kerr will work to manipulate lineups to create even the smallest of an advantage on defense. Moreover, for the Wolves to escape Oracle Arena with a win, they will need a cohesive victory—a big victory from their bench, KAT and Wiggins to prove their worth, and for role players to play big.