Me: What were the main moves Minnesota make over the summer?
Eric: Mostly the Wolves revamped their wing positions after a disastrous shooting year last year. They brought in Kevin Martin and Corey Brewer (and re-signed Chase Budinger) while losing Luke Ridnour and Andrei Kirilenko (which may prove painful over the course of the season). Both Martin and Brewer are off to good starts with the Wolves; Martin is scoring with his usual efficiency and Brewer has done a great job defensively on Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony so far, while also leaking out successfully in transition.
The Timberwolves have been gradually improving since 2010. Is this the year it all comes together?
We thought last year was going to be the year, then Love got hurt, and so did everyone else. This year, the Wolves are off to a strong start (3-1 as of this writing) and yes, we think this is the year we break through to the playoffs. Of course the West is very tough, and we already have two rotation players out (Chase Budinger and Ronny Turiaf) which is hurting out depth. But yes, a healthy Wolves team is pretty good.
Kevin Love seems like one of those guys that you'll look back on when his career is over and be absolutely shocked at just how good he was. When is the man ever going to get some recognition?
Well, Love just won his first Western Conference Player of the Week Award. :). Seriously, the guy is the best power forward in the league right now. (Is it OK to write that when it's going to published on a Mavericks blog)? (editor's note: we'll see if you feel the same way when Dirk wins MVP this year!) He scores from everywhere, rebounds like a beast, and has added some terrific passing to his game this year. He'll be an All-Star, and likely at worst 2nd team All-NBA.
What's the most important matchup for the game?
Well, Nowitzki-Love is the headliner certainly, and the battle of National Team teammates at the point guard is a story, but I think this is going to be a fun game because both teams are playing at a very fast pace. The Wolves just put 30 fast break points on a slow-it-down Cavs team, and have been running all year off a lot of turnovers and Love's outlet passing, which has become a real weapon this season. This could be a track meet kind of game.
Why will Minnesota win? Why will they lose?
Minnesota will win because they get out and run successfully on the Mavs with Ricky Rubio (near the top of the league in steals) and Kevin Love initiating the break. They will also win the free throw battle, something they do every night because they don't foul much and have three guys who draw a ton of fouls (Love, Martin, and Nikola Pekovic). Big Pek will overwhelm Dalembert on the block with his strength. The Wolves will lose because they won't be able to defend all of the Mavs weapons: Dirk and that scoring back court will be too much for a Wolves defense that, well, ain't the Pacers.
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