Minnesota Timberwolves (9-37) vs
Cleveland Cavaliers (35-11)
Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
7:00 PM EST
Rarely am I truly shocked when I do a statistical breakdown/analysis of a team in preparation for writing up a preview. If I’m being honest, though, I was truly shocked at just how awful the Minnesota Timberwolves are at all aspects of the game. They literally do next to nothing well. They’re pretty good at offensive rebounding and they’re ok at getting fastbreak points and points in the paint. That’s about it. Here are just some of the categories they are in the bottom 5 in the NBA in: PPG, Opp PPG, FG%, Opp FG%, 3P%, Opp 3P%, assists per game, opponents assists per game, turnovers per game, blocks per game, opponents blocks per game, Off eFG%, Def eFG%, Off TOV%, Off FT Rate, Off Efficiency Rating, and Def Efficiency Rating. Oh, and the Wolves opponents average a biggest lead of 18.7 points against them while their average point deficit at the end of the game is –10.2 points. So, yeah, this is not a good basketball team the Cavaliers are playing. Having said all that, we all know by now how frequently the Cavs play down to their opponents. We’ll see if the Cavs can stop that trend tonight.
So, I pointed out how terrible the Timberwolves are at playing basketball in my opening, and then you look at the starting lineups and you see that with the exception of LeBron James at SF, the Timberwolves have the player with the higher PER starting at every position. They have a trio of decent bench players, too, in Gomes, Sessions, and Ellington. Then you factor in the breakout season Kevin Love is having and the steadiness of Al Jefferson down low, and you wonder how this team can possibly be so bad.
Sometimes people say the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, but in Minnesota’s case the whole is less than the sum of its parts. However, the Cavaliers are still extremely shorthanded in the backcourt tonight and Jonny Flynn is an exciting young PG who is precisely the type of player who always gives the Cavaliers fits. He has an explosive first step and a knack for finding his way into the lane. With the way the Cavaliers rotate their help on defense, Jefferson and Love could have a field day. This is how the Wolves manage to score a decent number of points in the paint.
As I mentioned earlier, they also like to score fast break points. With Kevin Love and Al Jefferson underneath grabbing rebounds and Flynn pushing the breakout, they tend to find ways to score on the break. This is another area where Cleveland is somewhat susceptible defensively.
So, for all of Minnesota’s weaknesses and all of the Cavaliers’ strengths, there actually exists a decent number of matchup issues for Cleveland. Add this to their propensity for letting bad teams hang around, and this one has letdown game written all over it. If the Cavaliers come out focused and run their offense, there’s nothing to worry about. If they don’t, this game will turn into a dogfight for the Cavaliers.