October 18, 2017, 11:16 am
The Minnesota Timberwolves are entering a new era. Loaded with a reshaped roster, a new uniform design and a remodeled arena, the team is looking to put the last 13 years behind them and begin their chase for the playoffs.
What better way to to start the journey than against the San Antonio Spurs, who haven’t missed the playoffs in 20 years and are yet again expected to compete at the top of the Western Conference?
This will be the first chance for many people to get a peak at Jimmy Butler with the new look Wolves after they spent the preseason playing a shortened schedule in China. For the Wolves, this game is a chance to make a statement to the rest of the NBA that they have arrived and look to shake things up in the West. The team coasted through training camp without significant injures or drama and should be locked and loaded, ready to go.
The Spurs, meanwhile, look to continue their run of dominance that began in the late 90’s. Many players have come and gone, but Gregg Popovich has remained and that has been enough to sustain success.
The Spurs had a relatively quiet offseason. They were the only team in the NBA that didn’t complete a trade, nor did they land a marquee player in free agency despite being involved in several rumors. As a result many are overlooking them in the standings, believing the end has come.
That would be a mistake. Adding Rudy Gay to the mix gives the Spurs another dimension of scoring, and allows them to play small, with Gay sliding to the four and LaMarcus Aldridge sliding to the five. Or they can play big and slide Gay to the three and Kawhi Leonard to the two-guard. How well Gay recovers from his Achilles injury will be a big story for the Spurs this season.
The Spurs also reached an extension with Aldridge to keep him through the 2020-21 season, despite rumors earlier this year that he was unhappy in his situation. Those rumors either proved false, or were ironed out over the offseason.
The key to the Spurs though is Kawhi Leonard, arguably the top two-way player in the league and a perennial MVP candidate. Unfortunately Leonard will be out of this game due to a right quad injury that has held him out all preseason and has apparently lingered since last season. This is a huge break for the Wolves, but should still be a great challenge to win on the road.
Tony Parker is also out from offseason surgery on his left quad.
Where to watch:
9:30 ET/8:30 CT on Fox Sports North & ESPN.
Anthony Brown (coaches decision) – OUT
Justin Patton (foot) – OUT
Kawhi Leonard (quad) – OUT
Tony Parker (quad) – OUT
Towns vs. Gasol
Gibson/Dieng vs. Aldridge
Butler vs. the field
With the Spurs’ top perimeter players out, they are likely to pound the ball inside and run their offense through their big men, especially LaMarcus Aldridge. This will be a good early test for the interior defense, and also for the help defenders. If the Wolves decide to bring some double teams, the help defense will have to cover the rotations, especially when Danny Green and Patty Mills are on the floor.
The Spurs are going to try to slow things down and play the half court game, but without their best player on both sides they could have a tough time consistently getting stops.
For the Wolves, they’ll look to take advantage of the mismatch on the perimeter and the matchup of Towns and Gasol. It’s possible the Spurs could send Aldridge on Towns, but that would risk putting their best player into foul trouble. In either scenario, Towns will see plenty of touches in the post and away from the basket.
On the perimeter, Butler and Teague will trade ball-handling duties and setting up the offense, but look for Butler to be in attack mode most of the game. Without Leonard in his way he’s a matchup nightmare. Expect the Spurs to throw a few different looks at Butler, likely starting with Danny Green but also Kyle Anderson, Manu Ginobili and perhaps Rudy Gay.
Both teams will compete until the end, but ultimately this game means more in the short term to the Wolves than it does to the Spurs. A win on the road against a perennial Western Conference Finals contender would be an excellent way to kick off the season for these young Wolves. For the Spurs, it’s status quo.
February 22, 2019, 1:53 amAustin Rivers - G - Houston Rockets
Austin Rivers scored five points on 2-of-7 shooting with a rebound, a steal and a 3-pointer against the Lakers on Thursday.
Rivers was probable with a right elbow injury and played through it and logged 22 minutes. Now that he's a backup point guard there isn't any value to squeeze out of Rivers from a fantasy standpoint.
February 22, 2019, 1:45 amLeBron James - F - Los Angeles Lakers
LeBron James led the Lakers in their 111-106 comeback win over the Rockets on Thursday with 29 points on 11-of-23 shooting to go with his 11 rebounds, six assists, a steal and a block.
James activated "playoff mode" which is sweet music to his owners. A playoff season without LeBron is unheard of and he's going to do everything in his power to drag the Lakers into the picture. The first half of the game he was lethargic and almost disinterested, but you could tell the moment he snapped into focus that he was going to bring the heat. He had a beautiful statue of liberty dunk you can find all over Twitter and went 7-for-10 at the line which is the only blemish from his night. It's going to be fun watching him power his way through the home stretch of the season.
February 22, 2019, 1:42 amBrandon Ingram - F - Los Angeles Lakers
Brandon Ingram scored 27 points on 8-of-16 shooting with 13 rebounds and an assist against the Rockets on Thursday.
The scoring is nice and he's finally playing to his strengths by taking the ball to the hoop and drawing fouls, but his line is actually empty when you take another look. He went 11-for-14 at the line which is impressive considering he's a .660 free throw shooter on the year, but no peripheral stats and one assist leaves a lot to be desired.
February 22, 2019, 1:41 amJosh Hart - G - Los Angeles Lakers
Josh Hart returned to action on Thursday and scored four points on 2-of-3 shooting with two rebounds and an assist.
He missed the previous two games before returning tonight. Hart came off the bench and logged 19 minutes and as it stands there isn't enough playing time for him to play to establish himself a standard league asset. Even with Lonzo Ball (ankle) out, Hart is taking a backseat to Reggie Bullock (14 points, five rebounds, an assist, a steal and four 3-pointers) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (six points, three rebounds, a steal and two triples) because Coach Walton likes their ability to spread the floor.
February 22, 2019, 1:39 amJaVale McGee - C - Los Angeles Lakers
JaVale McGee scored 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting with six rebounds, an assist and two blocks on Thursday.
McGee logged 20 minutes as the Lakers opted to spread the floor with LeBron James. As long as he plays 20 minutes or more, McGee is good for some boards and a couple of blocks which is what we're expecting from him anyways.
February 22, 2019, 1:38 amKyle Kuzma - F - Los Angeles Lakers
Kyle Kuzma scored 18 points on 6-of-13 shooting with six rebounds, five assists, a steal, a block and two 3-pointers on Thursday.
Kuzma's shooting touch is back and he's playing well alongside LeBron James. He's one of the few dependable Lakers players on the perimeter and his value is high right now, but it remains to be seen if he can keep this up alongside James and the rest of the Lakers so a sell-high wouldn't be a bad idea.
February 22, 2019, 1:37 amTyson Chandler - C - Los Angeles Lakers
Tyson Chandler grabbed a rebound in six minutes of action on Thursday.
He missed the last game before the All-Star Break and was questionable to play due to a neck injury and saw the floor for six minutes. Coach Walton kept a tight rotation tonight and the Rockets were running with lineups that were a bit too quick for him.
February 22, 2019, 1:35 amJames Harden - G - Houston Rockets
James Harden scored 30 points on 11-of-24 shooting with five rebounds, six assists, two steals and two 3-pointers against the Lakers on Thursday.
Harden had three fouls within the first quarter which threw him off his game, but he was still able to rack up the points and keep his 30-point scoring streak alive. His 3-point shot was off tonight and he was called for four offensive fouls which is an anomaly considering he's usually on the other end of those calls. Even on his bad nights, the Beard drops a full line so owners can't complain too much even if it's hard after being spoiled for a month.
February 22, 2019, 1:34 amChris Paul - G - Houston Rockets
Chris Paul nearly triple-doubled on Thursday with 23 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists while chipping in a steal, a block and three 3-pointers.
Paul looked great against the Lakers and he had a little extra lift in his bounce tonight. The 3-point shot was on point for him as he went 3-for-5 from deep and also 9-for-15 from the floor. He's struggled with shooting efficiency all season so hopefully this is a sign of things to come.
February 22, 2019, 1:33 amClint Capela - C - Houston Rockets
Clint Capela returned to action on Thursday against the Lakers and scored 12 points with 11 boards and a block.
He went 6-for-9 from the floor and logged 33 minutes which means there's no minutes restriction for the big fella. Go plug him into your lineups with confidence as the Rockets gear up for their playoff seeding push.