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    Their backs are against the proverbial wall, but at this point it feels more like the Wolves are out to salvage the series and make life for the Rockets as difficult as possible.

    The Wolves were blitzed in the third quarter on Game 4, and in that 12 minute stretch the series took a tonal shift. Minnesota was in a one-point game on their home floor in a 2-1 series, and after the rough quarter lost a blowout and head back to Houston down 3-1.

    There weren’t huge expectations for Minnesota in this series, but through three and a half games, the Wolves certainly had a punchers’ chance. Their offense has mostly been an utter mess, and yet three games were there for the taking. In the pivotal Game 4, the Rockets overcame the technical issues delaying their launch and blasted off in a historical third quarter where they scored 50 points, second most ever in a NBA playoff game.

    An explosion of that magnitude, while historically rare, felt inevitable at some point in this series. The Rockets have not been shy about their 3-point shooting in this series, taking 43.3 attempts from beyond the arc in the series (in line with their 42.3 attempts in the regular season) while making them at a 32.9 percent clip. At some point they were going to break out of their slump.

    The fact that it didn’t happen until the second half of Game 4 was a moderate surprise and certainly allowed the Wolves to hang around all series long. Riding the wave all the way back to Houston and their home floor is a likely possibility, which means the Wolves have to bust out of their slump as well.

    After an odd beginning to this series there have been glimpses of what everyone expected peppered into Games 3 and 4, which was elite offensive firepower on both sides, and the stars showing out. Neither side has been able to put it together simultaneously just yet, leading to multiple blowouts and one-sided games.

    From the Wolves’ perspective, they’re out to at least pull their weight. It’s sink or swing season and the Wolves are on their final breathe.

    What kind of desperation adjustments Tom Thibodeau makes will be intriguing to watch. They say moments like this are where the true self reveals itself. Given the huge odds stacked against the Wolves winning this series, it might be advantageous to think towards the future and get the young players as much exposure as possible.

    On the other hand, Thibs could rely on his former Bulls more than ever. The players that left it all out on the line back in Chicago for him may play a feature role in his last ditch effort to get this series back to Minnesota. That would include Derrick Rose, who’s actually been a prominent player in this series already and to his credit has stepped up huge for the bench.

    Or perhaps the Wolves come out status quo and try to build on the things they did well early in the series, such as limiting Harden from getting into the paint and get him going backwards (something they utterly failed at late in Game 4), and running the offense through Towns at the high-post.

    Using Towns in the high-post is not something the Wolves do often, but Towns is a good fit there, with a chance to be fantastic. On the surface his shooting touch and size over the defense gives him an advantage in the passing lanes, but he’s also mobile enough to take it off the dribble and attack. He needs to improve both of these areas in his offense in the summer, but they are solid as of now.

    The main factor in this series that can help him, and the Wolves, is it makes it tougher to double team him in the high-post. If Towns gets switched onto a guard in the high-post, there’s more space to pass out of a double, and a couple of quick passes can lead to a score.

    It’s also been effective with Rose cutting into the lane. The Wolves’ offense is typically very stationary without much cutting or back screens, which doesn’t play into a high-post offense very well. Rose has added that element to the offense (accidentally?) and given Towns’ a moving target on a couple of occasions.

    Rose has been at his best when he’s in the lane and being a part of the offense instead of trying to create himself, and in this series he’s excelled in that regard, likely because the Wolves have lacked that all season long (Wiggins can be that guy, but is typically flared out to a corner).

    It will be interesting to see how the Wolves respond to the shell-shocking second half of Game 4 with everything now on the line. The Wolves certainly have shown they have the talent to hang with the big boys, but perhaps are still a year away from joining them.

    Lineups:

    Jeff Teague – PG
    Jimmy Butler – SG
    Andrew Wiggins – SF
    Taj Gibson – PF
    Karl-Anthony Towns – C

    vs.

    Chris Paul – PG
    James Harden – SG
    Trevor Ariza – SF
    P.J. Tucker – PF
    Clint Capela – C

    Injuries:

    Tyus Jones (knee) – QUESTIONABLE
    Justin Patton (foot) – OUT

    Luc Mbah a Moute (shoulder) – OUT

    Media:

    Where: Toyota Center, Houston, TX

    When: 8:30 pm CT

    How: Fox Sports North and TNT

Fantasy News

  • RJ Barrett
    SF, New York Knicks

    In an interview with David Fizdale, the coach mentioned that he would sprinkle in some point guard time for RJ Barrett due to his comfort with the ball in his hands.

    Barrett handled the ball plenty at Duke and his 4.3 assists per game show he had some success (though his 3.2 turnovers show he has room for improvement). The Knicks have plenty of rotation players that will handle the ball in Elfrid Payton, Dennis Smith Jr. and Julius Randle, but this year should be all about developing their young players. Barrett should have nice assist numbers for a wing you can draft in the late rounds.

    Source: Mike Vorkunov on Twitter

  • Doug McDermott
    SF, Indiana Pacers

    Doug McDermott sank four treys on his way to 14 points (5-for-10 FGs) in a loss to the Wolves on Tuesday.

    McDermott is a 3-point streamer and not much else these days. He provides very little else, especially now that he's likely to get under 20 minutes per game for the second season.

  • Aaron Holiday
    PG, Indiana Pacers

    Aaron Holiday (upper respiratory infection) returned to the court on Tuesday against the Wolves, scoring nine points and dishing out four assists in 17 minutes off the bench.

    Fellow point guard T.J. McConnell (10 points and eight assists in 20 minutes tonight) has been soaking up enough of the point-guard minutes, that Holiday's role isn't simply the full-time backup point guard that many fantasy players hoped. Edmond Sumner (upper respiratory infection) also played after previously being listed as questionable. Sumner had 11 points and four assists in 26 minutes off the bench.

  • Goga Bitadze
    C, Indiana Pacers

    Goga Bitadze (ankle) impressed in his Pacers debut on Tuesday as he went for 14 points (6-for-9 FGs), four rebounds, two assists, one block and two 3-pointers in 24 minutes.

    It was a nice way to begin his career in Indy. Bitadze won't likely play this many minutes on a regular basis, but he should get enough minutes to warrant rostering in deep leagues right away. He's in a situation similar to fellow rookie big man Brandon Clarke. Both are currently blocked but have big dynasty value.

  • Domantas Sabonis
    C, Indiana Pacers

    Domantas Sabonis double-doubled on Tuesday in a 119-111 loss to the Wolves, putting up 11 points (3-for-7 FGs, 4-for-6 FTs), 13 rebounds, two assists and one 3-pointer in just 17 minutes.

    Sabonis is in line for a slightly bigger role this season, but he's still likely to be a very Enes Kanter-like big man. That is, he'll do everything a traditional center does without the blocks but with good free throw shooting.

  • Karl-Anthony Towns
    C, Minnesota Timberwolves

    Karl-Anthony Towns dominated on Tuesday with 33 points (13-for-20 FGs, 3-for-4 FTs), 10 rebounds, four assists, three blocks and four threes in a 119-111 win over the Pacers in Indianapolis.

    What, no steals? Kidding. This is about all you could ask for from a top-5 fantasy pick. Towns had all of his strengths on display in limited minutes tonight. He should certainly be in consideration for the first pick in drafts.

  • Jarrett Culver
    G-F, Minnesota Timberwolves

    Jarrett Culver came off the bench and dropped 15 points (7-for-14 FGs, 1-for-2 FTs), four rebounds, three assists and one steal on the Pacers in 20 minutes in a win on Tuesday.

    Culver's lines are looking respectable already with minutes in the low 20s. The 20-year-old will likely have some growing pains, but he looks like an all-around player to keep an eye on as the season gets underway. Josh Okogie also played 20 minutes off the bench and put up five points, four rebounds, three assists and a steal.

  • Shabazz Napier
    PG, Minnesota Timberwolves

    Shabazz Napier dished out seven assists in addition to nine points (2-for-8 FGs, 3-for-4 FTs), three rebounds, two steals and two triples in 19 minutes on Tuesday vs. the Pacers.

    Napier could find himself in a good position should anything happen to Jeff Teague this season. Even as it stands now, there aren't many other trusted ball handlers on the Wolves. Those in deep leagues should make sure he's rostered as he's shown great production in the past.

  • Jordan Bell
    PF, Minnesota Timberwolves

    Jordan Bell (left calf strain) got his first action of the preseason on Tuesday and had four points (2-of-4 from the field) and five rebounds in seven minutes.

    Bell has a new opportunity with the Wolves this season and he returned to his crazy per-minute stats tonight. He's a definite watch, as he could get backup minutes at both the four and five spots. Bell only needs about 20 minutes per game to be worth starting in deeper leagues. Keita Bates-Diop (back spasms) was available but did not play in this one.

  • Jeff Teague
    PG, Minnesota Timberwolves

    Jeff Teague didn't shoot well but had a solid night on Tuesday, providing nine points (3-for-14 FGs, 2-for-3 FTs), three rebounds, seven assists, two steals, two blocks and a 3-pointer in 28 minutes.

    Teague isn't the solid bet to finish inside the top-50 that he used to be, but he's a great value around pick 90 where he's been going in drafts.