October 30, 2017, 11:39 am
The Timberwolves hit the road to Miami after another thrilling victory over the Thunder on Friday.
Jimmy Butler’s return to the lineup was a huge bolt of energy for the wavering Wolves after losing two straight without him. After a couple of days off, Butler should be at 100 percent, which is great news because he was excellent on Friday while still under the weather.
Karl-Anthony Towns is sick, but he is expected to play. He claims that he’s not suffering from the same ailment that knocked Butler out for two games. It does seem like a bug is traveling through the Wolves’ locker room though.
The Wolves are still struggling on the defensive side of the ball, allowing an NBA high in opponent field-goal percentage (51.7 percent), opponent effective field-goal percentage (57.5 percent) and opponent true-shooting percentage (60.1 percent).
Effective field goal percentage adds more weight for three-point field goals, accounting for the fact they are worth 50 percent more than two-point shots. True shooting percentage is a comprehensive shooting statistic that accounts for all shot forms (two-point, three-point and free throw) and emphasizes efficiency.
Basically, if it isn’t clear yet, the Wolves aren’t proficient in defending any area of the court. They have quite the hill to climb before they reach respectable numbers, and they won’t be able to make major jumps in the standings until they do so.
Luckily, the Heat aren’t an offensive juggernaut. They have been trending in the wrong direction since the start of the season, scoring fewer points in each game since the second of the season, which also happens to coincide with Hassan Whiteside’s absence. Whiteside is not going to play tonight.
In their most recent game, after scoring only 90 points, the Heat players openly questioned the team’s offensive identity. The team is hoping to avoid a start to the season like last year, where they went 11-30 before going on a tear to finish the season 41-41.
It seems rather early to fear those types of results, but for Heat players to be admitting it’s on their mind shows the desperate state they are in at the moment. The Heat have been juggling lineups nearly every game, trying to find the right combination of players.
This could be a prime chance for the Wolves, after two off-days, to steal a win on the road. It’s a game they should probably take, at least on-paper. Then again, they were supposed to come away with at least one victory against the last two Eastern Conference foes they faced and that didn’t go according to plan.
– Teague vs. Dragic
– Gibson vs. J.Johnson
The leading scorer and team veteran leader of the Heat, Dragic will likely be the center of attention for the Wolves’ defensive gameplan. It’s possible Butler will see some time on Dragic if Tyler Johnson shares some court time, but Teague will have the bulk of time on him defensively.
Miami has a number of talented scorers on the roster, but Dragic has been among the most consistent thus far. If Teague is able to slow him down, the offense could sputter for the Heat once again, giving the Wolves an ample opportunity.
Offensively for Teague, Dragic had a long summer playing in Europe and was brought along slowly by the Heat in training camp to limit his work load. While he’s in mid-season form offensively, his legs might be a little more tired defensively.
Meanwhile at the power forward position, Gibson will have his hands full with the active James Johnson. Johnson is still a mostly unheralded player around the majority of the NBA, but he is a player in a similar mold to Draymond Green.
Johnson is an athletic forward, able to guard centers and wing players on occasion. Often, he’s the loudest player on defense, issuing commands to his teammates. He’s a willing facilitator on offense, with an ability to stretch out the floor, though to start this season his deep ball has not fallen (just 3-of-17 on three-pointers).
Gibson is an athletic player himself, but Johnson will be a tough matchup for him on both sides of the floor.
Justin Patton (foot) – OUT
Karl-Anthony Towns (illness) – PROBABLE
Wayne Ellington (illness) – QUESTIONABLE
Rodney McGruder (leg) – OUT
Hassan Whiteside (knee) – OUT
Where to watch:
7:30 ET/6:30 CT on Fox Sports North
May 26, 2019, 10:12 pmJimmy Butler - G/F - Philadelphia Sixers
According to Tom Moore, it's a good move for the Sixers to sign Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris to big deals over the summer.
Moore points out that the move to acquire Butler at the NBA trade deadline was with the intention of keeping him with the team long-term. Butler was one of the more reliable Sixers players in the playoffs and his experience and composure shined through. Both he and Harris are expected to get a lot of suitors come free agency so it will be interesting to see how much the Sixers will be willing to cough up to retain their talented veterans.
Source: Tom Moore on Twitter
May 26, 2019, 4:01 pmBrook Lopez - C - Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks have multiple decisions to make when free agency starts but re-signing Brook Lopez is a priority, according to Malika Andrews.
The Bucks will likely lock up Khris Middleton first and then will have to decide on Malcolm Brogdon. He is a restricted free agent, but keeping him may vault Milwaukee into the luxury tax. After those two, Lopez is a priority over the other pending free agents such as Nikola Mirotic and George Hill. The Bucks won't have Bird Rights on Brook Lopez meaning they'd only have the mid-level exception to offer him, and if they go into the luxury tax, the mid-level exception drops from about $9 million to about $5 million. He'd almost certainly be taking a discount to stay in Milwaukee, but it's still possible he remains a Buck.
Source: Malika Andrews on ESPN
May 26, 2019, 3:53 pmNick Nurse - Team - Toronto Raptors
According to Peter Yannopoulos, Nick Nurse will be the coach of Team Canada this summer at the World Championships in China.
Nurse will be succeeding Hornets assistant coach Jay Triano, and will be in a similar position that Gregg Popovich has with Team USA. Nurse has had a meteoric rise since being the innovator of the Raptors new offense in 2017-18 as an assistant, to being promoted to head coach, to making the NBA Finals and now being named Team Canada's head coach.
Source: Peter Yannopoulos on Twitter
May 26, 2019, 11:48 amOG Anunoby - F - Toronto Raptors
The Raptors are expressing optimism that OG Anunoby will be able to see the floor for their NBA Finals matchup with the Golden State Warriors.
Anunoby's size and defensive versatility could make for a very valuable weapon against the Warriors' small-ball lineups. That being said, he has been out for nearly a month and a half, and the Raptors' eight man rotation has hit its stride in the crux of this playoff run. It remains to be seen if he will make it back, but in the event that he can, there is no guarantee that he will be able to crack meaningful minutes in Toronto's tight rotation.
Source: Ryan Wolstat on Twitter
May 26, 2019, 11:19 amMichael Porter Jr. - F - Denver Nuggets
As a symptom from his back surgeries, Michael Porter Jr. developed drop foot, and will wear to a leg brace to help stabilize it when he makes his professional debut in Summer League according to Mike Singer of the Denver Post.
Drop foot makes it hard for one to lift the front part of their foot and is a common symptom of back related ailments, of which Porter Jr. has had two surgeries to address over the last year and a half. Porter Jr. remains an unknown commodity with a laundry list of health concerns as an NBA player. There has been some recent success with young guys being able to bounce back in big ways after suffering year-long injuries, but Porter Jr. will remain a mystery until we see him on the court for his inaugural season.
Source: The Denver Post
May 26, 2019, 11:04 amJonas Valanciunas - C - Memphis Grizzlies
Jonas Valanciunas said that he wants to see who the Memphis Grizzlies hire as their next head coach before deciding on his $17.6 million player option.
Valanciunas saw his role increase in Memphis after being traded from Toronto, and actually played to compete with the Grizz trying to win enough games to convert their, at the time, low-end lottery pick to Boston. Valanciunas made it clear that he doesn't want to return to Memphis if their plans are to pivot to a rebuild and not compete again next year, saying, "I want to know, how we gonna look in 82 games. I don't want to be a tourist. I want to win.". The Hoop Ball favorite will be hard pressed to find a situation that will give him as much run, and fantasy value, as Memphis did, making this a decision fantasy owners everywhere should monitor.
Source: Dontas Urbonas on Twitter
May 26, 2019, 10:06 amKawhi Leonard - F - Toronto Raptors
Kawhi Leonard held Giannis Antetekounmpo to just .353 shooting from the floor with an offensive rating of 89.4 when guarding him in the Eastern Conference Finals.
This is needed to emphasize just how dominant of a defensive player Leonard really is. For reference, Giannis shot .578 from the floor with an offensive rating of 121 through the regular season. A total swing of nearly 23 percent and 32 less points per 100 possessions is preposterous for any player, especially an MVP caliber offensive juggernaut in Antetokounmpo. Keep these numbers in mind as the debate over Leonard being the league's best player continues to heat up.
Source: Micha Adams on Twitter
May 26, 2019, 1:17 amKawhi Leonard - F - Toronto Raptors
Kawhi Leonard posted a monster line in Saturday's 100-94 Game 6 win, scoring 27 points with 17 rebounds, seven assist, two steals, two blocks and six turnovers.
Leonard put the Raptors on his back and carried them into their first NBA Finals appearance. After losing the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals the Raptors stormed back to take the next four to seal the series. Kawhi has been simply marvelous for this team and found a way to crank it up another notch, averaging almost 30 points per game this series. He was all over the court this game and dominated the Bucks from inside the paint. A 4th quarter dunk over Giannis Antetokounmpo punctuated this dominance and sent the hometown crowd in a frenzy. The Raptors will try to keep their hot streak going as they face the Warriors in the NBA Finals.
May 26, 2019, 1:14 amGiannis Antetokounmpo - F - Milwaukee Bucks
While Giannis Antetokounmpo will be eligible for a five-year supermax contract worth over $247 million, ESPN's Malika Andrews is reporting that the 2020 playoff run could swing whether or not Antetokounmpo stays with the Bucks long-term.
The Bucks have three of their starters and two key bench pieces heading into free agency this summer, so they might have to make some bold choices to keep the necessary parts around while also improving the team on a budget. It's possible that this is the Antetokounmpo camp's way of encouraging Milwaukee to empty the wallet and keep the current group together, but it goes against what Giannis has said publicly about the team and city from day one. The Bucks were eliminated mere hours ago but we're already having this conversation. The NBA news cycle is perpetual.
May 26, 2019, 12:59 amKyle Lowry - G - Toronto Raptors
Kyle Lowry posted a solid line in Saturday's Game 6 win scoring 17 points while adding five rebounds, eight assists, three 3-pointers, one steal and only one turnover.
After a pedestrian series against the 76ers, Lowry stepped it up against the Bucks, averaging almost 20 points per game in the Eastern Conference Finals. He did a great job making smart plays for the Raptors and they will need him to continue to operate at this high level as they head off into the NBA Finals next week.