November 22, 2017, 5:08 pm
The Timberwolves get their first look at the Orlando Magic, who have lost five in a row after starting the season 8-4.
The Magic have a high-scoring offense, scoring 106.6 points per game. They rank in the top-10 in both field goal percentage (10th) and 3-point percentage (fifth), though their overall offensive rating is much lower, ranking 19th in the NBA.
This is a result of their pace and turnover problems. They rank sixth in the NBA in pace, so they are typically garnering more possessions. Within those possessions, they turn the ball over a lot, ranking 19th in turnover percentage.
This isn’t a terrible problem to have. Turnovers are generally easier to clean up than trying to get a team to shoot better from the floor. In any case, this should be a high scoring game as both teams can fill it up with minimal problems.
Their defense is fairly middle of the road. They do a good job of limiting shots beyond the arc, ranking seventh in the NBA in 3-point percentage defense. Their problems come from within the arc where they allow teams to shoot 2-pointers at a 51 percent clip, 21st in the NBA, and give up 50.8 points in the paint, by far the most.
This makes for an interesting matchup for the Wolves. They do not take many 3-pointers, ranking 29th in attempts. When they take them, they’re right at league average (36 percent), but it is not a large part of their game.
The Wolves prefer to play inside with post-ups, pick-and-rolls and isolation drives. Minnesota averages 46.6 points per game in the paint, seventh in the NBA. They also generate 18.9 percent of their points from the free throw line, which ranks third in the NBA.
These two teams can’t play much further apart from one another in terms of style. On one side the Magic look to get up quick shots (though not necessarily run in transition), and won’t hesitate to pull the trigger from 3-point range.
On the other side the Wolves look to slow it down, run through their progressions on offense and look to get a shot in the paint where they’ll have a layup or get fouled in the process.
Defensively though these teams rank fairly similarly. The Wolves have actually defended the 3-point line well, ranking ninth in 3-point defense, but are significantly worse guarding the interior, ranking 30th in 2-point and overall field goal defense.
Add it all up, and this is likely to be a game that could approach 250 combined points. The Wolves shouldn’t have a hard time running their normal offense, and while the Magic may have to adjust to a more interior game than usual, they have the right personnel to achieve that success, starting with their big center.
– Karl-Anthony Towns vs. Nikola Vucevic
– Aaron Gordon vs. Taj Gibson
Vucevic is one of the more talented, if unheralded, scorers at the center position in the league. He’s always had a nice array of post moves and a solid jump shot that he could extend beyond the paint. After a down year last season adjusting to a new coach and new players, he has stormed back this season and even added a key new weapon.
This season Vucevic’s shooting has increased across the board. He’s at a career-high 54 percent from 2-point range, supported by a 70 percent clip at the rim, but he extended his range, shooting 55.6 percent from beyond 16 feet, by far a career-high.
The major weapon he added though was a 3-point shot. He’s shooting 41.3 percent from beyond the arc on 4.4 attempts per game. He had previously attempted 101 3-pointers in his first six seasons, and is already up to 75 attempts this year alone. He’s gone from a solid jump shot to a silky jump shot.
The addition of a 3-point shot has rounded his offensive game into an all-around threat, and KAT will have to keep him contained if the defense is running the other players off the 3-point line. Often the Wolves’ defense has come down to Towns and tonight will be no different.
At the power forward position Gibson will be facing another athletic, “stretch four” that the Wolves’ have struggled to contain this season. Gordon, like Vucevic, recently added the “stretch” portion to his game. After shooting 28.9 percent from beyond the arc his first three seasons, Gordon is up to 43.8 percent this season while doubling his attempts.
Gordon has also generally improved his shooting around the floor and is shooting a robust 82.9 percent at the rim. He’s an extremely tough cover now that he is more than just a dunker, and he hasn’t lost a hair of his athleticism.
Assuming the Wolves are containing the 3-point line to their normal standards, it’s going to come down to the battle inside and it will be a fun one to watch.
Jeff Teague – PG
Jimmy Butler – SG
Andrew Wiggins – SF
Taj Gibson – PF
Karl-Anthony Towns – C
Elfrid Payton – PG
Evan “don’t google” Fournier – SG
Terrence Ross – SF
Aaron Gordon – PF
Nikola Vucevic – C
Justin Patton (foot) – OUT
Jonathan Issac (ankle) – QUESTIONABLE
Adreian Payne (hand) – OUT
Where to Watch:
8:00 ET/7:00 CT on Fox Sports North+