- When: Friday, 13 March 2015 at 7:00 PM CST
- Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
A historic month by Russell Westbrook, victories in 12 of their last 17 games, and a great improvement in team chemistry. And yet with all that, the Oklahoma City Thunder still find themselves in the same position they were in the first 3 months of the season: outside the top 8 in the Western Conference. After holding on to the 8th position for a couple weeks, the New Orleans Pelicans have retaken the last playoff spot in the West. With the Pelicans holding the tie-breaker against the Thunder, Oklahoma City have to find a way to win one more game than the New Orleans when it is all said and done.
This is the 3rd of 4 meetings between these two Northwest Division rivals. The Thunder have won the first two games by an average of 13.5 points. The Wolves were missing Kevin Martin and Ricky Rubio in both of the previous meetings.
The Timberwolves currently have a record of 14-49, which puts them in last place in the Western Conference. They are currently in the beginning stages of a rebuild, having netted the last two No. 1 picks in a trade that sent Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers. They are a mix of inexperienced young players and high priced veterans. It is apparent when you look at the stats, that the Wolves are playing more for the future than for the present. They are 22nd in scoring (97.6 points per game), while giving up the most points per game in the league (105.4 ppg). The T-Wolves attack is led by PG Ricky Rubio who averages 9.1 assists per game. Both the wings are the catalyst on offense, with Kevin Martin averaging 19.9 points on 39.9% shooting from deep and rookie of the year candidate Andrew Wiggins averaging 15.7 points per game. Up front, Kevin Garnett and Nikola Pekovic give the Wolves an experienced post tandem that, while slow, is experienced enough to play around their weaknesses. The bench is a smorgasbord of young players and veterans, mainly featuring Zach Lavine, Gorgui Dieng, Adreian Payne, Gary Neal, and Chase Budinger.
Probable Starting Line-Ups
- PG – Ricky Rubio
- SG – Kevin Martin
- SF – Andrew Wiggins
- PF – Kevin Garnett
- C – Nikola Pekovic
Oklahoma City Thunder
- PG – Russell Westbrook
- SG – Andre Roberson
- SF – Dion Waiters
- PF – Mitch McGary
- C – Enes Kanter
Edit – Serge Ibaka (knee) – out tonight/day to day
1. Defense – The Thunder have allowed 111.4 points per game in the last 7 games. Not surprisingly, their record in that stretch is 3-4. They’ve been bad at the two staples of good defense: containing penetration and defending the perimeter. While the Wolves don’t necessarily have a plethora of 3-point shooters, they do have wings that penetrate and draw the defense in. With the Thunder’s penchant for sinking into the paint on defense, it may becomes one of those games where Martin, Neal, or Wiggins go off for 4 or 5 three pointers.
2. The Others – The Russell Westbrook Experience has been exhilarating this past month and a half. But with Kevin Durant still out, defenses are completely keying in on Westbrook, making it extremely difficult for him to get into the paint. In the last three games, Westbrook has averaged 8 turnovers per game, as defenses either pack the paint or have an extra defender shading over to where Westbrook might drive. Westbrook can’t do it alone, and may need more than one other teammate to step up.
3. Trash Talkin’ KG – Steven Adams may have awakened a sleeping beast with his recent comments regarding Garnett and his penchant for sanitary verbalizations. Although Adams was completely complimentary in his interview, Garnett may not take too kindly to his words. Or, he may have softened in his older age and give props to the young New Zealander.
Bonus – Must-win – While it isn’t a must-win game, it sure has the feeling of one. Darn you Anthony Davis 30-foot desperation shot.