December 23, 2017, 1:25 pm
For the fourth time this season the Wolves will take on the Suns, and will look to even the season series at 2-2.
The Suns have proven to be a difficult matchup for the Wolves this season, particularly on the offensive end. The Suns’ 3-point shooting has torched the Wolves, especially off the bench with Bender and Daniels. The Suns have hit 34-of-76 3-pointers in three games against the Wolves for a 44.7 percent clip, well above their season average of 33.1 percent.
The Suns have also shot over 50 percent from the field in two of the three games.
The relentless pace the Suns have played at has given the Wolves a lot of problems. Every possession they are looking up the floor to start the fast break. If T.J. Warren isn’t leaking out (which is a rarity), they’ll look to find an open shooter in transition.
The Wolves prefer to slow the pace down and play in half court sets. For one reason, it helps their defense both to get set and to decrease the number of possessions. Another reason they like to slow it down is because they’re confident in their ability to score in the half-court offense, while the Suns are not an efficient half-court team.
With their best player Devin Booker out again the Suns will struggle to score in the half-court even more. Their main offense is to run in transition and catch defenses off guard. If they are forced to slow down they become much easier to guard.
It’s easier said than done, but keeping the Suns out of transition and in half-court offense will be the biggest factor in the game. Their defense doesn’t disrupt teams’ flow very much, so the Wolves shouldn’t have much trouble scoring once again (they’ve averaged 111.6 points per game versus the Suns).
Andrew Wiggins vs. T.J. Warren
The Field vs. Dragan Bender
Warren is the Suns’ best player with Booker out, and is the main benefactor of the Suns’ fast paced offense. If Warren is on the perimeter as a defensive player, once the shot goes up he is on the move towards the other basket and puts himself in a position to catch an outlet pass in transition.
He generates many easy baskets doing this, and while it’s fairly easy to defend he seems to get away with it a number of times. It will be paramount for Wiggins to keep up with him, or for Teague to fall back and play safety.
Meanwhile off the bench, Dragan Bender is 10-of-17 on 3-point attempts. That’s generally all he’s been effective for in the three games so far but it’s been a problem for the bigs getting out and guarding him. In the last meeting Bender was part of the bench onslaught that won the game or the Suns. His floor spacing opened up room for Len to work inside.
It will likely be a combination of Dieng, Towns and Wiggins assigned to Bender at any one time. Each player has to close out strong on Bender and force him to put it on the floor. He’s less likely to beat the Wolves off the dribble than off the catch-and-shoot.
Jeff Teague – PG
Jimmy Butler – SG
Andrew Wiggins – SF
Taj Gibson – PF
Karl-Anthony Towns – C
Tyler Ulis – PG
Josh Jackson – SG
T.J. Warren – SF
Marquese Chriss – PF
Tyson Chandler – C
Nemanja Bjleica (foot) – OUT
Devin Booker (groin) – OUT
Brandon Knight (knee) – OUT
Davon Reed (knee) – OUT
Alan Williams (knee) – OUT
Where to Watch:
9:00 ET/8:00 CT on Fox Sports North