Four-Pointer: Previewing the Minnesota Timberwolves

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport

After a troubling loss to the Hawks, the Mavs host the Timberwolves who are looking to get back to a .500 record.

What have the Timberwolves done lately?

Minnesota is in the midst of a brutal stretch of games. Within the week, the team has faced the Rockets, Pacers, and Nuggets. After their meeting with the Mavericks tonight, they travel to Oklahoma City to face the Thunder before heading home to host the Spurs and the Heat. Ouch. Needless to say, this is a crucial period in the early season for the Wolves.

The Timberwolves started the season off well. However, this current stretch of games has seen their record dip a game below .500 at 8-9. They have lost three games in a row and five of their last six. Their sole win came against the Nets. Despite leading, or being near the top, of damn near every team stat category in the league, Minnesota just cannot seem to consistently find the win column.

What are the Timberwolves biggest strength and weakness?

As mentioned, the Wolves lead in almost every stat category. They are first in field goals made, field goals attempted, two-pointers made, two-pointers attempted, free throw percentage, offensive rebounds, total rebounds, steals, and points. Minnesota also ranks ninth in three-pointers made, third in three-point attempts, second in free throws made, fourth in free throw attempts, third in defensive rebounds, second in assists, and fourth in points scored per game. Those are fantastic numbers.

However, not everything is working well for the Timberwolves. They do not shoot the ball well. For the season, Minnesota is shooting 42.6 percent on field goals, 32.3 percent on three-pointers and 46.3 percent on two-pointers. This poor shooting begets their strong offensive rebounding. Poor shooting teams are usually strong offensive rebounding teams. The Utah Jazz is another prime example of this statistic holding true.

Which team stat might determine the game?

Not to sound cliché but it will be points scored. Both the Mavericks and Timberwolves are offensive juggernauts. Dallas simply cannot compete with Minnesota on the glass as Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic, and even Ricky Rubio will have their Windex handy. (Rubio is the third leading rebounder on the team.) This will give the Wolves more offensive opportunities. Therefore, the Mavs will have to score as much as possible.

More specifically, transition scoring may determine the outcome of the game. Love is a phenomenal outlet passer and has the best (personal opinion) transition weapon available in Corey Brewer. Brewer is sneaky and loves to leak out on a play after the opposing team puts up a shot. The Mavs will have to limit these opportunities.

What's the biggest matchup to watch?

Honestly, there are a ton of good matchups in this game. Rubio and Monta Ellis, Kevin Martin and whoever guards him, Shawn Marion and whoever he is guarding, Calderon (who may or may not play) and Rubio as Spanish national team teammates, Pek and the Dallas frontcourt, Brewer and the left corner, but, of course, all eyes will be on the All-Stars.

Two of the league's best power forwards will face off tonight. Dirk Nowitzki is a former MVP and NBA Champion. Kevin Love is in just about every MVP conversation early on this season. Both are the focal point of their team's offense and the faces of their organizations. It should be a fun, defenseless, game.

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