Scouting Report | Wolves vs. Mavericks
The Wolves face the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night in Ryan Saunders’ first home game as Interim Head Coach. He will certainly get a warm welcome from the Minnesota crowd. The Wolves looked great in his first game on the sidelines in OKC, and they’ll look for a repeat performance in yet another important conference matchup.
The Mavericks are an interesting team. They are currently 19-22 and sitting in the No. 14 spot in the Western Conference. That being said, they are a quality squad. Everything is so tight in the West right now that’s it’s better to look at record than seeding to determine how good a team is—the Mavs are just 3.5 games out a playoff spot. The Wolves are in a similar situation with a record of 20-21, though they’re a little closer, just 2.5 games out of a playoff spot. Needless to say, this is an important game. Getting back to .500 and picking up a win over a Western Conference opponent would be huge.
This is the part of the season where true playoff contenders separate themselves from the pack. Friday night is that start of the second half of the NBA season and the Wolves would love to start out on a high note.
What: Wolves vs. Mavericks
Where: Target Center
When: 7 p.m. CT
Watch: Fox Sports North
Listen: 830 WCCO
Luka Doncic is a rookie but he’s already a star and the unquestioned engine of the Mavericks offense. That means the Wolves need to slow him down.
Typically, the best option for the Wolves would be Robert Covington, who is pretty much built to contain a player like Doncic (one of the reasons he’s so valuable to this team), but with Covington still on the shelf due to a bone bruise, Minnesota will need to look elsewhere.
The Wolves will likely go with a combination of Josh Okogie and Andrew Wiggins. Okogie is a great defender, and a rookie-on-rookie battle has some narrative appeal as well, but he’s undersized against the 6-7 Doncic. The benefit of using Okogie is his physicality. Okogie is built like a tank and Doncic won’t be able to push him around.
Where Okogie’s main benefit is strength, Wiggins’ is length. Doncic will not be able to finish over the top of the Wolves’ hyper-athletic forward, and a player with Wiggins’ wingspan is hard to get around. Wiggins will also be able to close out on Doncic’s step-backs faster than Okogie. However, he’s not quite the dogged one-on-one defender that Okogie is and Wiggins also is asked to do way more on the offensive end, so Saunders will need to watch his energy level if he’s tasked with driving the offense on one end and guarding Doncic on the other. More than likely, Doncic’s defensive assignment will not fall on one person. It takes a village, or in this case, a duo of incredibly athletic wings.
Big On Big
Karl-Anthony Towns has been an absolute monster on the boards in the last few games, and that will be even more important on Friday night against DeAndre Jordan. Jordan’s prime is behind him and he isn’t the athlete he once was but he’s still an imposing physical presence and one of the strongest players in the league.
Towns needs to be careful to avoid getting into shoving matches with Jordan and instead use his superior quickness and verticality to outmaneuver the Mavs big man. On defense, he needs to stay between Jordan and the basket. Jordan loves catching lobs for dunks. Positioning is going to be everything in this matchup—if Towns can get a few fouls early on Jordan and get him on the bench, the rebounding battle will the Wolves’ for the taking.
On the season, Jordan is averaging 10.9 points and 14.0 rebounds, while Towns is averaging 22.1 points and 12.3 rebounds per game. It’s very important that Towns wins that matchup on Friday.
Wolves: Robert Covington (knee) is out. Derrick Rose (ankle) is questionable.
Mavs: Dennis Smith Jr. (back) is out, Dirk Nowitzki (illness) is probable.
Wolves: PG – Teague, SG – Okogie, SF – Wiggins, PF – Gibson, C – Towns
Mavs: PG – Brunson, SG – Doncic, SF – Matthews, PF – Barnes, C – Jordan