24/05/2024

Game Preview #82: Wolves vs. Suns

Hace 1 meses

Game Preview #82: Wolves vs. Suns

Karl-Anthony Towns and the Timberwolves will look to take down Kevin Durant and the Suns in the regular season finale in order to stay alive in the race for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference Playoffs.

Karl-Anthony Towns and the Timberwolves will look to take down Kevin Durant and the Suns in the regular season finale in order to stay alive in the race for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference Playoffs.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are closing out their season at home against the Phoenix Suns. Minnesota has struggled with Phoenix this season, and there will be a lot at stake for both teams who could face each other in the playoffs.

The Wolves are back to full strength, but their recent play hasn’t been the most inspiring stretch of the season. As Minnesota limps to the finish line, they are in a spot to gain some significant momentum, cement their playoff seed, and finish with the second-best record in franchise history.


Game Info

  • Who: Minnesota Timberwolves (56-25) vs. Phoenix Suns (48-33)
  • When: Sunday, April 14 at 2:30 PM CT
  • Where: Target Center — Minneapolis, MN
  • TV: Bally Sports North
  • Radio: Wolves App, iHeart Radio, KFAN 100.3 FM
  • Line: Wolves -2 | Total: 217 (courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook)

Injury Report

Updated as of Sunday, April 14 at 1:00 PM CT

Minnesota

AVAILABLE:

  • Anthony Edwards (illness)
  • Karl-Anthony Towns (left meniscus tear)

OUT:

  • Jaylen Clark (right achilles tendon rupture rehab)

Phoenix

AVAILABLE:

  • Drew Eubanks (right ankle soreness)

OUT:

  • Eric Gordon (migraine)
  • Damion Lee (right meniscus surgery)

What to Watch For

Minnesota Timberwolves v Denver Nuggets Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Seeding Shenanigans

We’ve always seen some shenanigans when it comes to teams vying for playoff seeds, but this year could be incredibly tricky with how close so many teams are and the inevitable tiebreakers that will come into play. The Wolves are at least locked into a top-three seed, but a win or loss could cause some significant movement.

While there may be some gamesmanship with other teams, it should be safe to say that the Timberwolves will be going all out for a win. All year, Minnesota has made it a priority to compete and avoid resting guys. With seeding at stake, it would be astounding if this changed.

With a win, the Timberwolves would at least guarantee the second seed in the Western Conference. If the standings remain as is, that would ensure they’d have home-court in a potential second round series with the Denver Nuggets. Additionally, it would give them the chance to jump to the No. 1 seed in the off chance the Oklahoma City Thunder lose to the Dallas Mavericks, who are going to be resting most of their rotation as they are locked into the No. 5 seed.

But... the Nuggets appear to be gearing up to rest their main rotation against the Memphis Grizzlies. If Denver lost and Minnesota won, the Timberwolves would be the No. 1 seed and the Nuggets would take the No. 3 spot, meaning Denver could avoid Minnesota in the second round.

By winning this game, the Timberwolves would also ensure that the New Orleans Pelicans would capture the sixth seed. That would guarantee that the Timberwolves wouldn’t face up with the Pelicans — who have been a brutal matchup with Zion Williamson in the lineup this season — in the first round. Regardless of what we may perceive as good or bad matchups, the expectation should be that the Wolves do everything they can to win this game.

Atlanta Hawks v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

KAT Building Momentum

Karl-Anthony Towns understandably had a lackluster return against the Atlanta Hawks, but these are crucial minutes for the Timberwolves as they enter the playoffs. Towns is a crucial part of the offense, and they likely don’t have a realistic shot of making a deep run without him.

While Towns is a more talented player than Naz Reid in a vacuum, Towns needs to start playing more like Reid. Naz’s decisiveness was a major factor why the Timberwolves offense ran as smoothly as it did when Towns was out. Whether it was confidently letting 3-pointers fly off the catch, immediately making the extra pass, or attacking the rim, the lack of stickiness with Reid’s offense really imbalanced defenses.

Towns can be an offensive supernova, but coming off the injury, simplifying his game will likely make him more effective. He has to be willing to shoot at will and not overcomplicate his attacks. When the ball kicks to him and he stops to survey, it kills the entire flow of the offense and ruins their spacing. If Towns simplifies his game, speeds up his decision making, and takes what the defense gives him, he could help elevate this offense to the levels that it should be playing at.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Phoenix Suns Photo by Kate Frese/NBAE via Getty Images

Take Care of the Ball

It’s an issue that’s plagued the Timberwolves all season, but it was a major reason why they lost their last game against the Suns. The Suns have a handful of athletic wings who consistently create chaos and cause turnovers.

The Suns aren’t a high paced team, and they don’t typically push in transition. Per Synergy, only 16% of Phoenix’s possessions come in transition, which ranks in the 23rd percentile. While they don’t tend to push in transition, they are incredibly efficient when they do as they score 1.232 points per possession (97th percentile). When the Timberwolves were careless with the ball, they allowed the Suns to score an additional 3.4 points per 100 possessions just off steals (74th percentile).

Given how infrequently Phoenix plays on the break, allowing those easy points in the last game was a huge factor in determining the outcome. Aside from the points that the Suns were gifted, the lack of ball security completely neutered the Timberwolves’ offense. They were never able to get in a rhythm and lost any flow they hoped to establish. Overall, the Timberwolves played really strong defense as they held the Suns to an offensive rating of just 103.3 (17th percentile). In contrast, the Suns had an offensive rating of 150 (100th percentile) when they played in November. The Wolves seemingly figured out how to defend against Phoenix’s prolific scorers, but their ineptitude on offense immediately took them out of the game. The Timberwolves have yet to piece together both sides of the floor against the Suns, but this would be the perfect time to do so and go into the playoffs with some serious momentum.

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