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Scouting Report | Wolves at Cavaliers
The Wolves have entered 2020 with a newfound intensity that’s allowed them to win two of their last three games.
Most recently, the Wolves earned a 99-84 win over the Golden State Warriors at Target Center on Thursday night. It’s been a rough year for the Warriors, but Thursday night was only the third time they’ve been held to less than 85 points this season.
The Wolves will attempt to carry their spirited play into their Sunday road game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Wolves will enter Sunday’s game with a 13-21 record, good for 12th in the Western Conference standings. Cleveland has lost three games in a row and sits at 13th in the Eastern Conference with a 10-25 record.
This is the Wolves’ second and final game against the Cavaliers this season.
The Wolves’ sparked play was preceded by a disappointing home loss against the Cavaliers on Saturday, Dec. 28. The loss was the first game the Wolves had been without both offensive leaders Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, and Minnesota only shot 35.5% from the field. Towns’ and Wiggins’ availability for Sunday’s game is still up in the air, but based on the shorthanded Wolves’ recent play, fans should expect to see a better performance against the Cavaliers than they did before the new year.
The Wolves’ offense hasn’t been top-notch without Towns and Wiggins, but they’ve managed to stay afloat without their top players because of their dominant defense.
Through their last 10 games, the Wolves boast a league-best defensive rating of 101.3. They’re also second in steals per game (9.4 per game), fifth in blocks (6.5) and eighth in rebounds (47.2).
Not too shabby.
Appreciation for G League Grind
Robert Covington recorded his first 20-point, 10-rebound game with Minnesota on Thursday in the Wolves’ 99-84 win over the Warriors, but instead of applauding his own efforts, Covington spent the majority of his postgame availability complimenting the contributions of his teammates’ who’ve split their time between the Timberwolves and Iowa Wolves this season.
“These youngins have really stepped in and really contributed,” Covington said. “These past three games, we’ve really seen a lot of growth in each other. What they’ve been doing is really what’s been taking us over the edge a little bit.”
Covington is right. Kelan Martin, Naz Reid, Jaylen Nowell and Jordan McLaughlin contributed a total of 73 points, 36 rebounds, 11 assists, five blocks and a plus-minus rating of plus-4.8 in the Timberwolves’ last three games, and their energy has inspired their veteran teammates. Nowell and McLaughlin were assigned to the Iowa Wolves on Friday, but Martin and Reid will probably earn some minutes against the Cavaliers especially if Towns, Wiggins, Treveon Graham, Jeff Teague and Noah Vonleh are still unavailable.
Wolves: Jake Layman (toe) and Karl-Anthony Towns (knee) are out.
Cavaliers: Kevin Porter (personal reasons)and Kevin Love (load management) are game-time decisions. Larry Nance Jr. (knee) and Dylan Windler (lower leg) are out.
Wolves: PG—Napier, SG—Wiggins, SF—Martin, PF—Covington, C—Dieng
Cavaliers: PG—Garland, SG—Sexton, SF—Osman, PF—Henson, C—Thompson