October 24, 2017, 11:30 am
Coming off a thrilling, last second victory in Oklahoma City, the Timberwolves return home to take on the Indiana Pacers.
Andrew Wiggins will look to continue his hot streak. He’s averaging 24.7 points per game, and has been hot from beyond the arc, shooting a career best 42.1 percent, while taking nearly twice as many more per game than last season. His defense has also looked better in the three short games so far.
Will this be the game Jimmy Butler breaks out? So far the Wolves haven’t needed Butler’s offense as much as his defense, but as the season wears on he’s going to need to come around. It’s not a concern at this time, though he seems to be the last newcomer yet to break out. UPDATE: Butler is out for the night with illness. His breakout will have to wait.
Jeff Teague had his best game of the season and was in control of the offense the majority of the time he was on the court. The first two games, him and Butler more or less split time initiating offense, but against the Thunder, Teague took charge more often. Was that part of the game plan, or was it just how things panned out? That dynamic will be something to look out for tonight.
Karl-Anthony Towns will look to start the season with four consecutive double-doubles, but his defense is becoming a growing concern.
The Wolves have now won two in a row versus playoff teams from last season, and face another playoff team in the Pacers, though on paper it seems like the Pacers have downgraded somewhat. Trading Paul George in the offseason signaled a rebuild of the franchise, and so far this season they have started with a 1-2 record.
With George gone, the Pacers have turned to newly acquired Victor Oladipo and third-year big man Myles Turner to lead the youth movement.
Oladipo is averaging 22.3 points per game this season, with 5.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 2.7 steals. As the highest paid player on the roster, the Pacers are giving him the majority of touches on offense. Oladipo is also a steady defender and commonly guards opposing team’s best guards.
Turner is a supremely talented big man. He has great size to play in the post, where he’s extremely efficient, he can step out all the way to the three-point line and hit a shot, he is one of the top big men in free throw shooting (80.9 percent last season), and he is tremendous defensively with excellent mobility and length.
Unfortunately, Turner has missed the past two games with a concussion, and i
t remains to be seen if he’s healthy enough to play tonighthe will be out in tonight’s game. Second year big man Domantas Sabonis has filled in the starting lineup in his absence. Sabonis has had a nice start to the season, and is a threat on the offensive size of the ball.
Newcomer Darren Collison has been the second option on offense with Turner out. As the starting point guard, Collison has averaged 15.0 points, 7.7 assists, 3.3 rebounds, with his typical efficient shooting (56.7 percent overall, 40.0 percent from three-point range).
Collison has been an underrated player for a number of years now, and though he may have lost a step, he still is able to post well-rounded lines and is normally one of the better players on the court.
In their first few games, the Pacers haven’t been afraid to run with three point guards in the lineup at once for significant stretches, with Victor Olidipo, Darren Collison and Cory Joseph out there with Thad Young and Sabonis. Though potentially weaker defensively, this lineup is able to score in bunches.
Will the Wolves respond to this lineup with Crawford in there and put Wiggins at the four? Or will they run big and let Wiggins chase down a point guard? Only Thibs knows for now.
It’s no secret the Pacers are looking to turn up the tempo more often. As a team, they are averaging 114.7 points per game this season, while giving up 119 points per game. With the Wolves’ best defender out, this game has the potential to turn into a track meet.
– Jeff Teague vs. Darren Collison
Jimmy ButlerAndrew Wiggins vs. Victor Oladipo
Perhaps it’s not the most intriguing point guard matchup one could think of, but these are two really solid, sometimes over looked, players that will battle it out and their games are not all that different.
Both players thrive in the pick and roll game, are efficient around the rim and are knock down shooters when their feet are set. Collison is set to take on a bigger role if Turner is out, so Teague will have the opportunity of slowing their second option down.
Meanwhile, Collison will have the challenge of taking Teague out of the offense. When Teague wasn’t touching the ball for the Wolves, their offense tended to stagnate a bit. Collison has the capability to deny Teague the ball and make life tough on the Wolves’ offense.
At the opposite guard position, Butler will once again be tasked with guarding the opposing team’s best player.
With Butler out, I expect Wiggins will see significant time versus Oladipo, which won’t be an easy task. Oladipo isn’t on the same level as Russell Westbrook, but his style of play is not much different. He’ll have the ball in his hands a lot and looking to attack the basket and draw fouls.
He’s not nearly as efficient at the rim as Westbrook, but he does have some explosiveness. He’s also not afraid to run in and grab rebounds and push the ball in transition, so Wiggins will have to be alert at all times.
Jimmy Butler (illness) – OUT
Justin Patton (foot) – OUT
Glenn Robinson III (ankle) – OUT
Edmond Summer (knee) – OUT
Myles Turner (concussion, neck) – OUT
Where to Watch:
8:00 ET/7:00 CT on Fox Sports North Plus (Minnesota)