The Minnesota Timberwolves had aspirations of making the postseason for the first time since 2003-04. However, injuries and other issues have derailed that attempt and put their playoff chances on life support. Hollinger has their playoff odds at 24% currently, but that has yet to account for star Kevin Love breaking his hand for the second time in 3 months. Golden Boy and former Portland superstar Brandon Roy is out indefinitely as is solid role player Chase Budinger.
The ‘Wolves nonetheless remain in the postseason chase, posing as a perfectly average team with a 15-15 record and a efficiency differential of exactly 0. Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic are day-to-day for today’s game. Rubio has yet to find his groove with very poor shooting numbers, but he can be a matchup problem with his tricky passing and adept vision. Just last year, in his first year in the association Rubio dropped an impressive double-double on the Hawks in a losing effort. Pekovic and Ivan Johnson sharing the same court could be classified as a hazard to public safety, making it paramount that he, Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia keep him off the glass and away from deep post position on offense.
Like the Hawks, the Timberwolves have a top 7 defense, but unlike Atlanta they sport a top 5 three point defense. Minnesota’s Andre Kirilenko has turned back the clock 8 years when he was a disruptive force in Utah. He can guard multiple positions and has the versatility to fill up the stat sheet like Atlanta’s own Josh Smith.
The ‘Wolves also happen to be the top rebounding team in the NBA, but their post corp has taken a hard hit with the loss of Love. Derrick Williams, the Timberwolves’ #2 overall pick in 2010, is starting to become a bigger part of the offense, albeit off the bench, and former Celtic Greg Stiemsma will provide shot blocking but little else.
The Hawks will look to get their offense on track against a tough defensive team. Teague, as has been discussed, cannot lose Rubio around screens or Ricky will find open cutters like Kirilenko. Smoove, Horford, Johnson and Pachulia will have to play physical basketball down low against some bruising Minnesota counterparts. Winning on the road in the Western Conference is never easy but Atlanta should be able to snap a recent losing streak.