October 22, 2017, 9:22 am
The Timberwolves were able to hang on against the Jazz and now look ahead to a Sunday night matchup with the Thunder, who are no longer just Russell Westbrook and company.
This offseason the Thunder were able to add Paul George and Carmelo Anthony alongside Westbrook to form a formidable trio. They’re going through similar growing pains as the Wolves right now, trying to fit their new marquee additions into the offense. After blowing out the Knicks on Thursday, the Thunder lost to the Jazz last night, scoring only 87 points.
It’s still a bit early to tell the way the new team plays together, but last season with Westbrook driving the team, they tended towards a fast paced offense and let Westbrook beat guys in isolation in half court sets. Adding Melo and George gives them more weapons in the half court offense, perhaps to balance things out.
Melo is a great post option and would make an interesting partner to Westbrook in the two-man game, should they ever explore that avenue, with George always ready on the perimeter for a kick out.
The Thunder sent most of their depth away in offseason trades, but Steven Adams and Andre Roberson are still around and are asked to defend first and foremost. Neither player is a huge factor on offense, and gather most of their points around the rim.
The Wolves are looking to build on their last game, a 100-97 win against the Jazz. In that game there were signs of the offense finding a groove, but it still remains a work in progress. The bench showed the most firepower against the Jazz, and it’s possible they will have to carry the offense again versus a thin Thunder bench.
It might be another quiet night offensively for Jimmy Butler as he’s expected to have his hands full guarding Westbrook, while being shadowed by Roberson on the other end. Butler certainly won’t back down from the challenge though.
Karl-Anthony Towns will look to extend his double-double streak to three games against Steven Adams.
Defensively, the most important factor will be getting back in transition and slowing things down, forcing the Thunder into half court offense.
– Butler vs. Westbrook
– Wiggins vs. George
Despite adding two star players to the roster, Westbrook is still the engine that drives the Thunder. It’s nearly impossible to stop Westbrook because he will always be in attack mode, whether his team is up 20 or down 20. Butler can make life hard for him though, and force Westbrook into mistakes. It’s about the best you can ask for.
Westbrook is also coming off a six-point, 2-of-11 shooting affair, so he’s likely to come out even more active than usual (if that’s somehow possible).
It’s unlikely Westbrook will guard Butler on the other side because that’s what they pay Roberson to do. At the same time, the Wolves brought Butler in for nights like tonight to guard the opposing team’s best player and be a big factor in the offense. Don’t look for any excuses from him.
Meanwhile, Wiggins will have the challenge of sticking with George on the wing. This is going to be Wiggins’ greatest assignment yet this season. He’s been up and down on defense so far, but the Wolves will need him to be at his best tonight.
Justin Patton (foot) – OUT
Where to Watch:
7:00 ET/6:00 CT on Fox Sports North (Minnesota)
May 26, 2019, 1:17 amKawhi Leonard - F - Toronto Raptors
Kawhi Leonard posted a monster line in Saturday's 100-94 Game 6 win, scoring 27 points with 17 rebounds, seven assist, two steals, two blocks and six turnovers.
Leonard put the Raptors on his back and carried them into their first NBA Finals appearance. After losing the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals the Raptors stormed back to take the next four to seal the series. Kawhi has been simply marvelous for this team and found a way to crank it up another notch, averaging almost 30 points per game this series. He was all over the court this game and dominated the Bucks from inside the paint. A 4th quarter dunk over Giannis Antetokounmpo punctuated this dominance and sent the hometown crowd in a frenzy. The Raptors will try to keep their hot streak going as they face the Warriors in the NBA Finals.
May 26, 2019, 1:14 amGiannis Antetokounmpo - F - Milwaukee Bucks
While Giannis Antetokounmpo will be eligible for a five-year supermax contract worth over $247 million, ESPN's Malika Andrews is reporting that the 2020 playoff run could swing whether or not Antetokounmpo stays with the Bucks long-term.
The Bucks have three of their starters and two key bench pieces heading into free agency this summer, so they might have to make some bold choices to keep the necessary parts around while also improving the team on a budget. It's possible that this is the Antetokounmpo camp's way of encouraging Milwaukee to empty the wallet and keep the current group together, but it goes against what Giannis has said publicly about the team and city from day one. The Bucks were eliminated mere hours ago but we're already having this conversation. The NBA news cycle is perpetual.
May 26, 2019, 12:59 amKyle Lowry - G - Toronto Raptors
Kyle Lowry posted a solid line in Saturday's Game 6 win scoring 17 points while adding five rebounds, eight assists, three 3-pointers, one steal and only one turnover.
After a pedestrian series against the 76ers, Lowry stepped it up against the Bucks, averaging almost 20 points per game in the Eastern Conference Finals. He did a great job making smart plays for the Raptors and they will need him to continue to operate at this high level as they head off into the NBA Finals next week.
May 26, 2019, 12:48 amMarc Gasol - C - Toronto Raptors
Marc Gasol scored six points, all from behind the arc, in Saturday's Game 6 win, adding three rebounds, two assists and a block/steal in 26 minutes.
Gasol continues to do what the Raptors ask of him though the years of grinding in the paint for Memphis are long gone. He has adjusted his game play and now acts as a facilitator for the rest of the team. Gasol continues to split time in the post with Serge Ibaka (25 minutes, nine points) and will see his minutes fluctuate based on the Raptor's offensive scheme heading into the NBA Finals.
May 26, 2019, 12:24 amFred VanVleet - G - Toronto Raptors
Fred VanVleet was a difference maker for the Raptors' series clinching Game 6, scoring 14 points off the bench on 5-for-6 shooting while adding two assists.
VanVleet played 34 minutes off the bench and continues to be a menace from behind the 3-point line (4-for-5 today). In the past three games he has gone an unbelievable 14-for-17 from behind the arc. The Raptors will continue to rely on his ability to stretch the floor as they head into their first NBA Finals and will square off against the Warriors and their own formidable shooters.
May 26, 2019, 12:08 amGiannis Antetokounmpo - F - Milwaukee Bucks
Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 21 points in Saturday's Game 6 loss while contributing 11 rebounds, four assists, two steals, three blocks and two turnovers.
Antetokounmpo did all that was asked of him on both sides of the ball but could not get past the Raptors this series. Giannis continues to operate at an MVP-level but his freethrow woes continue to plague him. He was "Shaq-esque" this series (55%) and shot 5-for-10 in tonight's loss. This is a tough break for Antetokounmpo and the Bucks as they head into the offseason with four of their five starters entering free agency.
May 25, 2019, 11:46 pmKhris Middleton - F - Milwaukee Bucks
Khris Middleton scored 14 points in Saturday's Eastern Conference Finals loss adding just four 3-pointers, four rebounds and two turnovers.
All-Star Middleton struggled this entire series as he was tasked with the unenviable task of guarding Kawhi Leonard. He was poised to continue his fabulous playoff success following strong performances against the Pistons and Celtics but failed to deliver this series, with the exception of a 30-point Game 4 loss. Middleton will be a free agent this summer and will be one of the Bucks' top priorities heading into the offseason.
May 25, 2019, 11:29 pmEric Bledsoe - G - Milwaukee Bucks
Eric Bledsoe scored an inefficient eight points (3-for-9 FGs, 1-for-3 3-pointers, 1-for-2 FTs) in Saturday's loss while adding five rebounds, seven assists, one steal and two turnovers.
Bledsoe seemed to ebb and flow all series and just could not find the consistency that the Bucks needed during the Eastern Conference Finals. He has always been able to produce outside of scoring but his team really needed him to put the ball in the hoop this game.
May 25, 2019, 11:19 pmBrook Lopez - C - Milwaukee Bucks
Brook Lopez scored 18 points on Saturday's Game 6 loss, adding nine rebounds, one assist, four blocks and zero 3-pointers.
Lopez had a productive 4th quarter for the Bucks scoring six points in the paint against the Raptors frontcourt. Unfortunately, he could not get it going throughout the rest of the game and caused most of his damage at the freethrow line, going 8-for-9. Lopez provided a great boost for the Bucks this season and will be a free agent this offseason.
May 25, 2019, 7:58 pmPatrick McCaw - G - Toronto Raptors
Patrick McCaw, who has been dealing with a personal issue for the last few games, is active for Game 6 on Saturday vs. the Bucks.
It looks like McCaw got things sorted out. With him active now, the Raptros will get a bit more depth at the guard spot. That said, Fred VanVleet has been playing well, so McCaw will not likely see a lot of burn tonight outside of potential garbage minutes (if any).
Source: Blake Murphy on Twitter