Timberwolves vs. Thunder preview (Game 3 of 82)

twolves vs. okc logo

  • When: Sunday, 22 October 2017 at 6:00 pm CST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
  • TV: FSOK
  • Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 930 AM (Spanish))
  • Line: OKC -4.0 | O/U – 210.5

Six points? Six points for current MVP, Russell Westbrook. Much of the credit needs to go to the Utah defense, who executed a great defensive game plan. But it didn’t much seem like Westbrook was trying to attack the defense, either. He almost looked like he was settling. And the words Westbrook and settling don’t necessarily go together in a sentence.

Westbrook is known for his attacking nature and his ‘never say die’ style of play. But last night, he seemed almost content with passing the ball to Carmelo Anthony and Paul George and letting them shoot the Oklahoma City Thunder out of the rut they were in. The Westbrook from last season would have looked at the Westbrook from last night and wondered ‘what the hell are you doing?’. 

The Mamba mentality that we’re used to from Westbrook wasn’t there last night. He shot 11 times, making only 2, but that doesn’t tell the full story. There were times where Westbrook had the drive, but instead decided to kick it out to one of his shooters for a three. Unfortunately, on several of those occasions, the Jazz were sitting back and waiting for the pass. Westbrook will probably have to adjust the most to make the Big 3 work. But that adjustment doesn’t have to include taming the beast. Westbrook is who he is, and this team will need him to be that in order to be successful.

The Opponent

The Timberwolves come into this game with a 1-1 record. The Timberwolves, like a lot of the NBA, had a bit of a roster upheaval during the offseason. Gone was long-time point guard Ricky Rubio and up and coming shooting guard Zach Lavine. In their stead, the T-Wolves acquired Jimmy Butler in a draft day trade and Jeff Teague via free agency.  In addition, Minnesota also signed veteran power forward Taj Gibson to balance out the youth that was on the team last season.

In the first two games of the season, the Timberwolves seem to be in as much transitional flux as the Thunder. Jimmy Butler, who averaged nearly 24 points per game last season is struggling in this early going, averaging 12.5 points on 38.5% shooting from the field. The good news is their two youngsters, Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns seems to trajecting on the same track from last season. Wiggins seems to have improved his shot a bit this offseason and is averaging 23.5 points per game in the first 2 games of the season. Towns is averaging a strong double-double at 19 points and 11.5 boards per game.

Off the bench, Minnesota has a good trio that provides scoring, defense, and flexibility. Jamal Crawford is the same J. Crossover of old. Gorgui Dieng has struggled a bit this season, but still has the ability to be a terror on the boards. And Nemanja Bjelica can play all three front court positions.

Injuries

  • Oklahoma City – None
  • Minnesota – Justin Patton (foot)

Three Big Things

1. Carmelo Anthony vs. Taj Gibson

Anthony should have a decided advantage in this match-up, as Gibson is more of an interior defender/rebounder that doesn’t give you much on the offensive end. If Anthony is able to get his shot going, it could be the jolt the Thunder need to get their offense going. In addition, if Anthony is able to pull Gibson out of the paint, the will give Westbrook more room to operate in the paint when he drives it in there.

2. Second chance points

Both these teams are pretty even on the boards. The big difference comes after the rebound. The T-Wolves do a great job of preventing 2nd chance points, allowing only 6.5 2nd chance points per game in their first two games. With Westbrook crashing the offensive glass, the Thunder have an opportunity to turn this strength into a weakness for Minnesota.

3. Patrick Patterson

They say it usually takes about three games before a player returning from injury gets his land legs under him. Patterson has looked a bit shaky in the Thunder’s first two games as he works his way back from offseason knee surgery. Hopefully this is the game where he starts to feel a little more comfortable with his knee.

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