Minnesota Timberwolves at Miami HEAT Game Preview
Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon
The Miami HEAT host the Minnesota Timberwolves Monday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Get your tickets now! The HEAT defeated the Timberwolves 123-105 in their last meeting on March 17. Tip-off is set for 7:30 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 7:00 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.
1: What do you think the HEAT will focus on cleaning up from their six-point loss to Boston?
Couper Moorhead: The turnovers. Erik Spoelstra pointed out Miami’s 19 turnovers both after the game and the next day at practice while many of the players discussed the need to be more connected with one another when running actions. You’re never going to eliminate all turnovers because some of them are the good kind coming from aggressive play and teams, especially against teams that have an established style of play, are always preparing for the types of passes you want to throw. But it’s the turnovers that the defense doesn’t force, or the ones that happen during more simple, bread-and-butter actions, that can mean the difference between a win and a loss. The Timberwolves are so far in bottom third in the league at forcing turnovers.
Joe Beguiristain: I think the HEAT will focus on offensive execution more than anything. Like Coup stated above, Miami committed 19 turnovers on Saturday, which turned into 21 points for Boston. Obviously, those turnovers made all the difference in a two-possession game decided in the final minutes.
Another thing I expect the HEAT to work on is their communication both on and off the court. After practice on Sunday, Goran Dragić stated that communication was the number one thing the team needed to improve. As one of the team captains, Dragić has certainly led by example this season, especially in crunch time. Hopefully the rest of the squad can follow his lead as the season continues.
2: What changes did Minnesota make during the offseason and how has it affected the way they play?
Couper: The Timberwolves moved Ricky Rubio to Utah, eventually filling that position with the free-agent signing of Jeff Teague. They signed Taj Gibson, now a starter as Gorgui Dieng has moved to the bench, as well as Jamal Crawford. And of course the biggest move of their offseason was trading a draft pick and Zach LaVine to the Chicago Bulls in exchange for All-Star Jimmy Butler. So, even though Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns remain as part of the core, this team has a very different feel.
Minnesota currently sits at No. 9 in offensive efficiency (106.5) and No. 30 in defense (114.3) but even though they allowed a second-half offensive rating of 110.1 to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night that was still a particularly spirited defensive performance that could be the start of something for a young Minnesota team. You won’t find many groups with more raw talent than these Wolves and if they put things together on both sides of the ball they could be a true powerhouse.
Joe: As Coup stated above, this Minnesota team is pretty different than in years past. While you have the familiar cornerstones in Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, all the new additions make the Timberwolves much more dangerous.
Jimmy Butler can defend at an elite level, Jeff Teague can manufacture offense when other guys are struggling and Taj Gibson can bring toughness and veteran leadership. Even though Butler was clearly the biggest acquisition, don’t let the Teague move fly under the radar.
The 29-year-old Teague brings a little something different than Ricky Rubio did, with the main thing being his ability to score. In fact, Teague is averaging 1.08 points per possession as the pick-and-roll ball handler, which ranks him in the top ten (minimum of 25 possessions). He’s also shooting 40 percent from deep, which certainly helps matters.
All that said, the Timberwolves will need to dramatically improve on the defensive end if they want to contend in the Western Conference. With Tom Thibodeau at the helm though, that should come sooner rather than later.
3: Assuming Hassan Whiteside doesn’t play (Spoelstra called him very doubtful) how do you think Miami will go about matching up with Minnesota?
Couper: Considering the Wolves start both Gibson and Towns – each of whom is a mobile and capable defender on the perimeter – then the expectation would be to see either Bam Adebayo start again at center next to James Johnson or to possibly see Kelly Olynyk with the starting group. That leaves Dragic with Teague while Dion Waiters and Josh Richardson split up duties on Butler and Wiggins.
Of those matchups, it’s the wings that are most interesting. Butler and Wiggins will both have a bit of a size advantage so it will be imperative for Miami to play strong team-wide containment defense lest those two are able to get within ten feet and rise up over the top of the defense. Considering Miami is currently among the best in the league in opponent shot quality – factoring in shot type and location – they’ve actually been fairly good at keeping opponents off the three point line and away from the rim, despite what the overall defensive results have shown.
Joe: With Towns playing at such a high level right now (24.8 points and 11.8 rebounds per game), it’ll be tough regardless. Still, I think Erik Spoelstra will roll with Bam Adebayo and James Johnson in the frontcourt for the third-consecutive game. Towns obviously has the height advantage on both guys, but Adebayo can keep up with him thanks to his foot speed and Johnson can use his brute strength to bang with him on the block.
Outside of Towns, Butler might be the most challenging assignment since the 28-year-old has the ability to hit so many tough, contested shots. But you also can’t forget about Wiggins, who has shown an improved stroke from downtown this season (38.7 percent on 31 attempts).
Long story short, Miami’s defense will be tested early and often against a prolific Minnesota offense.
INJURY UPDATES: Wayne Ellington (illness) did not participate in Monday morning’s team shootaround and is a game-time decision. Hassan Whiteside (knee) went through the full shootaround, but will not play.
- The HEAT are 2-3, while the Timberwolves enter the contest at 3-3.
- Miami swept the season-series with Minnesota last year.
- Goran Dragić is averaging 20.2 points per game on 50.6 percent shooting this season.
- Karl-Anthony Towns leads the Timberwolves in points (24.8), rebounds (11.8) and blocks (1.8) per contest.
- HEAT Offense: 101.7 (18)
- HEAT Defense: 106.7 (21)
- Timberwolves Offense: 106.5 (8)
- Timberwolves Defense: 114.3 (30)