Minnesota Timberwolves (2-7) vs. New York Knicks (3-9) Preview: A winnable game


Mired in a five-game losing streak, the Minnesota Timberwolves had to initially feel at least somewhat optimistic about their chances, coming home for tonight’s contest against the New York Knicks.

That was before Tuesday afternoon. Flip Saunders confirmed that Nikola Pekovic (wrist) and Thaddeus Young (personal) will both be out until at least Sunday. Combine this with the ankle injury to Ricky Rubio and the Wolves are in a very messy situation.

Facing the Knicks, who lost last night in Milwaukee, and with the home crowd behind you, one would think that the Wolves may finally have a chance to break the skid. Competing against any team, even the lowly Philadelphia 76ers, without arguably your three best players, is going to be a mountainous task.

The Timberwolves enter this one at 2-7 while the Knicks come to town off of a 117-113 loss last night against the Bucks, bringing their record to 3-9.


Minnesota Timberwolves (2-7)

PG – Zach LaVine (4 GS, .353 FG%, .900 FT%, 2.5 REB, 2.7 AST, 0.3 STL, 0.3 BLK, 5.7 PTS this season)    

Nov 5, 2014; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard

Andrew Wiggins

(22) waits to take a foul shot against the Brooklyn Nets during the third quarter at the Barclays Center. The Timberwolves defeated the Nets 98-91. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

SG – Kevin Martin (7 GS, .440 FG%, .952 FT%, 3.6 REB, 1.9 AST, 0.5 STL, 0.0 BLK, 18.4 PTS this season)

SF – Andrew Wiggins (9 GS, .463 FG%, .615 FT%, 3.3 REB, 0.8 AST, 0.9 STL, 0.4 BLK, 10.6 PTS this season)

PF – Anthony Bennett (1 GS, .528 FG%, .750 FT%, 3.3 REB, 1.1 AST, 0.3 STL, 0.6 BLK, 5.9 PTS this season)

– Gorgui Dieng (1 GS, .542 FG%, .800 FT%, 6.9 REB, 0.8 AST, 0.3 STL, 1.4 BLK, 8.0 PTS this season)

Key Reserves

Shabazz Muhammad (SG) –  With the ever-growing injury list, this may be Muhammad’s best chance to show Wolves management that he still has the skills and talent that once made him a highly touted UCLA prospect. He’s coming off of a very solid performance in Saturday’s loss, scoring 18 points on an effective 6 of 7 shooting.

Chase Budinger (SF) – Budinger should also benefit from the recent rash of injuries. While he won’t be starting, Budinger should get plenty of minutes over the next few games and may be tasked with guarding Carmelo Anthony during periods of this game.

Glenn Robinson III (SF) – We may have a Glenn Robinson III sighting in this one! The rookie, who has played a whopping total of nine minutes this season, could have a chance at his first NBA field goal and well… at least that’s something to look forward to.

New York Knicks (3-9) *Stats as of 11/18/14

PG – Shane Larkin (10 GS, .400 FG%, .909 FT%, 2.0 REB, 2.7 AST, 1.5 STL, 0.0 BLK, 6.2 PTS this season)

SG – Iman Shumpert (10 GS, .505 FG%, .737 FT%, 3.5 REB, 3.2 AST, 0.7 STL, 0.2 BLK, 12.4 PTS this season)

SF – J.R. Smith (1 GS, .463 FG%, .762 FT%, 2.9 REB, 3.7 AST, 0.9 STL, 0.2 BLK, 11.4 PTS this season)

PF – Carmelo Anthony (11 GS, .454 FG%, .761 FT%, 5.7 REB, 3.6 AST, 0.6 STL, 0.2 BLK, 23.9 PTS this season)

C – Samuel Dalmbert (11 GS, .385 FG%, 1.000 FT%, 5.2 REB, 1.7 AST, 0.2 STL, 1.5 BLK, 3.0 PTS this season)

Key Reserves    

Nov 12, 2014; New York, NY, USA; Orlando Magic center

Nikola Vucevic

(9) defends against New York Knicks forward Amar

Amar’e Stoudemire (PF/C) – It’s pretty amazing how far Stoudemire has fallen. Just four years ago, the big man was starting his first season in the Big Apple as a 28-year-old stud entering his basketball prime. Injuries and inconsistent play have amazingly had Stoudemire largely relegated to a bench role on a less than impressive Knicks team. Still, he is very capable of putting up solid numbers and carrying an offense while ‘Melo gets some rest.

Tim Hardaway Jr. (SG) – Robinson III’s former Michigan Wolverines teammate was a Knicks first round draft pick in 2013. While he has come almost exclusively off of the bench, Hardaway Jr. has been a nice spark for the Knickerbockers with efficient scoring and solid shooting from three-point land.

Pablo Prigioni (PG) – The third-year pro out of Argentina is one of the older players in the league at 37, yet has been fairly healthy in his two seasons in New York. After appearing in 78 games during the 2012-2013 season, Prigioni played in 66 games last year and has averaged just under 18 minutes per game in his young career.


– In addition to Pekovic’s wrist injury, Rubio’s ankle ailment, and Young’s leave of absence, Ronny Turiaf is also expected to be unavailable for this one. He has only played in two games this season, due to a lingering sore right hip.

– With the quartet of players unavailable, Saunders will have just a six-man bench. It’ll likely be all hands on deck for this game.

3 things to look out for

1. Dieng vs. Dalembert – The starting center matchup should be a great defensive battle. While Dieng certainly has the edge on offense, both players are known for their impressive shot blocking abilities.

2. Defense anyone? – Despite the above note, these two teams are not exactly the most defensively sound teams. The Wolves defensive rating is 113.1 (28th out of 30), while the Knicks were at 109.8 (24th out of 30) entering last night’s game.

3. Wiggins’ defense – One of Wiggins’ biggest early season defensive tests is expected in this matchup vs. ‘Melo. Depending on how Saunders plays the defense, Wiggins may be tasked with slowing down one of the premiere scorers in the game. ‘Melo has the unique skill set of sharp outside shooting, while also being able to drive strong to the basket and convert very difficult shots.


I really want to pick the Wolves in this one. I truly almost did. However, I just don’t see them being able to withstand the losses of Pekovic, Rubio, and Young.

If Martin, Wiggins, and Dieng have big games, maybe there’s a chance. But with the Wolves struggling defense, I see a big game for ‘Melo and a Knicks’ 10-point win.

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