The Minnesota Timberwolves are one of the many teams in the league who have been able to beat up on the bad teams this moth. Their December started with some bad teams on the schedule, but their season started with some really good teams. At the beginning of the season, the Wolves beat teams like the Denver Nuggets and the Boston Celtics. Since then, they have beaten other good teams, too.
But December is sure to show some good teams that the Wolves will face. There are five for sure that the Timberwolves will need to bring their best against. Here are the five biggest challenges the Wolves will face in December:
5. Dec. 14 at Dallas Mavericks
The Wolves will be coming off of a three-game road trip starting in Memphis Friday, then New Orleans Monday, finishing in Dallas Thursday. It’s not the craziest traveling schedule there is, they’ve had one other longer West Coast road trip but still have not traveled all that much.
This could also be the game that McDaniels returns to the floor, which can give them a boost in guarding Luka Doncic. On Friday, Kyrie Irving left the Mavericks game in a wheelchair with a foot injury. It's possible that he could be out, and even without Irving, the Mavericks are still a good team. Nonetheless, Doncic at home after a road trip is always going to be a tough test for any team.
4. Dec. 26 at Oklahoma City Thunder
The rematch. The first game was utterly incredible, and this one will definitely live up to the hype of the first matchup. The Thunder are good. I like all the teams, but for some reason it pains me to say that they are formidable. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander does foul bait sometimes, but that’s not the thing that gives me small amounts of dread to say that they are a real threat.
We all want to see Chet Holmgren play against his hometown team. Rudy Gobert gave him nightmares; the man air-balled a lightly contested mid-range jumper. That is just a small segment of how awesome Gobert has been this year. Holmgren is a dog, and it’s a matchup that you know he hasn’t forgotten. But again, this Thunder is very good and a team that is going to come after them in every game.
3. Dec. 16 vs. Indiana Pacers
The Pacers are playing some of the best basketball in the league. Sure, their defense isn’t that great, but oh boy, is their offense other-worldly. Tyrese Haliburton is playing at a first-team All-NBA level right now on the number-one offense in the league.
The Pacers also punched their ticket to the In-Season Tournament Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers (who we will see shortly). They attempt the fifth most threes in the association (39.2) and make them at the third highest clip (38.8 percent). The Wolves did not give up very many three-point attempts, but the Pacers bombed them.
One caveat is that the Pacers will be on the second night of a road back-to-back after playing against the Washington Wizards the night before. But I don’t care, they can hit 20 three’s on you any given night and against the Wolves it should be no different.
2. Dec. 21 vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Now, the Wolves have gotten the better of the Lakers the last couple of seasons. The Wolves have won five of the last eight games against the Lakers, including the 104-101 overtime loss in last season's Play-In Tournament.
L.A. has come to play for the In-Season games. They are getting healthy, and their rotation is falling into place. They also have LeBron James and Anthony Davis, who have had some big games against the Wolves the last few years. In his last six games against the Wolves, dating back to the 2019-20 season, Davis is averaging 30.2 points per game and 8.8 rebounds. It should be one of Gobert’s biggest matchups of this young season.
It is also the second night of a back-to-back after what could potentially, possibly, be the toughest game this month against the Philadelphia 76ers.
1. Dec. 20 at Philadelphia 76ers
This game had to take the top spot didn’t it? Outside of the Nuggets, one could argue that the Sixers are the Wolves' top rival, and the KAT-Embiid matchup is always one to keep an eye on. Given their beef in the past, they both take these games more seriously than the rest. They want to make a statement against one another.
The Wolves beat the Sixers earlier in the season while they were on the second night of a back-to-back, so Embiid did not play in that game. Depending on health, it appears that Embiid should be playing in this game and he has straight up dominated the Wolves when they have played.
Embiid has averaged nearly 35 points and 10 rebounds over the last six games against the Wolves. If the team wants to boast that they have the best defense in the league, this has to be the game where they show it against a guy who has taken them to school each time they play.