The (16-15) Minnesota Timberwolves will hit the road after a two game home-stand as they face off against the (26-8) Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena tonight at 8:00 p.m. (ET)
The Minnesota Timberwolves have done everything possible to try and fulfill the high expectations that were set for them at the start of the season. With the promise of a playoff appearance and a money back guarantee on tickets to boot, the Timberwolves are doing their best to stay afloat in the wake of numerous key injuries.
Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio made their return to the court earlier than expected, and now the Timberwolves are paying the price. Love re-injured his hand on January 3rd while playing at Denver. News broke that Love may need surgery on his re-fractured right hand, but no determination has been made as of yet, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. With Love out indefinitely and Rubio’s overall health still in question, the Timberwolves will need to rely heavily on rookie guard Alexey Shved and center Nikola Pekovic to carry the load in Love’s absence.
Minnesota looks to stay hot after coming off a big win at home against the Atlanta Hawks. Big man Nikola Pekovic was phenomenal in the post despite Love’s absence, coming through with a monstrous 25 point 18 rebound double-double. Ricky Rubio chipped in 8 assist as he was limited to just 20 minutes off the bench in his first game back after missing the previous 4 contest.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are back home after a two game road trip that ended Monday with a loss to the league worst Washington Wizards. Without a doubt this was a letdown game for the Thunder, as they currently own the second best win percentage in the league. With the Wizards in the rearview mirror, the Thunder can now focus on the task at hand as they play host to the Minnesota Timberwolves in what should be an exciting matchup between two of the leagues youngest teams.
Playing at home is what the Thunder does best. The Thunder are currently tied with the Clippers for the league’s best home winning percentage with a 17-3 record at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
What to Watch For:
With the Timberwolves lineup depleted and little depth at the small forward position, it will be all up to Andrei Kirilenko to find a way to slow down MVP candidate Kevin Durant. Durant scored a team high 29 points to go along with eight assists, seven rebounds, three steals and two three-pointers in Monday’s loss against the Wizards.
Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic is having a breakout year, and with Kevin Love out for the foreseeable future, it’s all up to Pekovic to carry the load in the frontcourt. Pekovic continues to dazzle this season, posting double-doubles in 8 of the last 13 contest. During that stretch, he's averaging 19.5 points, 10.5 boards, and 0.9 blocks in 32.7 minutes, all while shooting a lofty 55 percent from the floor.
Point guard Ricky Rubio is expected to play games on consecutive days for the first time since returning from ACL surgery last month. He will not only be needed as a facilitator on offense, but also as a lockdown defender against Russell Westbrook on the perimeter. Slowing down Westbrook is only half the battle, as the Thunder’s high powered offense should have little problem scoring against this defense.
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 110, Minnesota Timberwolves 103
Where To Watch Online: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Minnesota Timberwolves