Remember the Timberwolves, who last Saturday fell in defeat at the boots of the Kings at ARCO. The Wolves have four victories, including one this week against Utah. Minnesota's four wins (in 26 games, whoo) have come against the Nets, the Nuggets and the Jazz twice. The Wolves have the worst point differential in the league, have the third worst shooting clip in the league, the second worst offense overall and the 24th ranked defense. The Wolves suck.
THE KEY BATTLE
Al Jefferson and Kevin Love vs. Jason Thompson and ... Andres Nocioni? No word as of press time on whether Spencer Hawes will get his starting position back. Facing a Scantron and No. 2 pencil, I would scribble the 'B' bubble, assuming 'B' is associated with 'no.' Hawes had a solid spell in relief on Wednesday, but Spencer's bad outing against Minnesota on Saturday was surely part of the eventual post-Blazers benching.
(And please do not believe Paul Westphal's spin regarding the Wizards match-up. It's been discussed insightfully by others here on StR, but seriously. He got benched. He got benched.)
There are pros and cons, to me, in benching Hawes against teams like the Wolves. First of all, one of the few strengths of Minnesota is its offensive rebounding, between Jefferson and Love. We saw Jefferson own the offensive glass early in Saturday's game. He ended up with five offensive caroms, and Love had four. Benching Hawes, no matter how disappointing he has been on the boards this season, doesn't help when Omri Casspi is the replacement. Omri is a great rebounder at his position ... which is not power forward or center. We saw Nocioni play power forward in Hawes's stead Wednesday; if Hawes sits for Omri, that'd be the case again, with Thompson marking Jefferson (and risking foul trouble) and Noc handling Love. But Noc isn't a PF-level defensive rebounder, either. You open yourself up for exploitation on the offensive glass, something we saw executed perfectly early on by Washington.
Of course, adding Omri to the Evans-Greene-Nocioni-Thompson group makes the offense wail. Casspi is a perfect match for Evans and Thompson, just perfect. So what do you do? If it were my choice, I'd either start Hawes and keep all five Kings back to help rebound (you can score on Minnesota in the halfcourt) or I'd start Kenny Thomas and Omri (the latter in place of Noc), match K-9 up against Jefferson, let Thompson take Love ... and sub in Hawes the second Jefferson sits (or as soon as Thompson picks up his second foul, whichever happens first). Ryan Hollins is a good offensive rebounder, but less of a threat to do anything with the ball and an absolute sieve on the other end.
I have a feeling we'll get Omri in the starting five with Nocioni, which means we'll get a shoot-out, which is probably best for all viewers.
Reggie Theus will arrange for Sam Amick to be forced to sit next to Minnesota's most slovenly, smelly man.
Kings by 6.
5 PM tip-off. Comcast SportsNet and KHTK 1140 AM. Just one game thread tonight, plus the post-gamer (7:45) and the recap (eventually).