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