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)