Tip-Off: 7 PM CDT
Location: Target Center (Minneapolis, MN)
Television: FSN, FSOK, NBA TV
Radio: The Sports Animal
Twitter: Follow @TheThunderGuys for live-tweets during the game
Player to Watch
C Karl-Anthony Towns is coming off arguably his best game of the season despite the Timberwolves losing in Los Angeles to the Lakers. Towns finished the game with 40 points on a ridiculous 17/22 (77.3%) from the field and 5/8 (62.5%) from the free throw line to go along with 21 rebounds, 4 assists, a steal, and a block. In three games against the Thunder so far this season, KAT is averaging 29.3 points while shooting 59.6% from the floor and 94.4% from the free throw line and grabbing 10.3 rebounds per game. Steven Adams has not played all that well for the Thunder during the second half of the season, and even though playoff seeds are set and this game does not mean a whole lot, it would still be nice to see Adams put together a couple of solid outings headed into the playoffs.
Keys to the Game
- Stay Out of Foul Trouble: Minnesota is one of the best free throw shooting teams in the league, knocking down 80.1% of their attempts (5th in the NBA). Not only are the Timberwolves capable of making their shots from the charity stripe, they do a good job of getting there, averaging a little over 24 attempts per game (8th in the NBA). Minnesota has only won 1 of their last 6 games, but they have shot at least 26 free throws in 5 of those games, making 86% of their attempts. Oklahoma City is one of the most physical teams in the NBA, which means they have a higher tendency to foul. The Thunder ranks 24th in the NBA with 20.9 personal fouls per game, so they need to keep key players out of foul trouble and keep the Timberwolves away from the free throw line.
- Somebody Step Up: Over last few weeks, the Thunder has struggled as a team. While they have won 6 of their last 10 games, 4 of those wins have been close to the very end, and 3 of them have been decided on a last-second shot. Naturally, Russell Westbrook has been Oklahoma City’s savior all season long, but that has been especially true lately. With no consistent support from his teammates, Westbrook has put up incredible numbers and saved the day when given the opportunity. While 4th-quarter comebacks that end in buzzer-beating, game-winning shots are full of excitement, that type of play simply cannot be sustained with playoffs looming. The Thunder cannot wait until the first round of the playoffs to see who is going to step up and contribute, so tonight’s game would be a fantastic place to start and see who has what it takes to offer Russ the support that he needs.
- Finish Strong: With playoff seedings already decided, the last couple of games of the regular season could easily be written off as “not all that important,” but tonight could be an interesting opportunity for younger guys who do not play a whole lot. While the result of these last two regular season games will not affect the Thunder’s first-round matchup, they could certainly have an impact on Oklahoma City’s mindset. Morale and momentum are intangibles that are sometimes overlooked, but with the first round of the playoffs coming up at the end of the week, going into them on a high note could do wonders for the team against a quality opponent on the road. Several players are resting tonight, including Russell Westbrook, so the Thunder will get a more intense look at some guys who may get a chance to shine and earn some potential playing time in the playoffs.
Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.