Top 5 must-see games from 2011-2012 season

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Anticipation is fun. I miss basketball.

Remember last year? That was pretty awesome, huh. Between the Heatles debut, Phil Jackson’s last shot at a 3-peat, the Celtics’ closing championship window, the rising Thunder, and the impending lockout chatter (*singing* one of these things is not like the others…), the preseason drama was unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

And the release of the schedule definitely contributed. From the first game of the season, which the NBA wisely slotted as Miami vs Boston, to the Christmas Day matchups (Boston/Orlando and Los Angeles/Miami drew the afternoon ABC billing), the best matchups of the schedule dominated SportsCenter highlights when it was released and sparked the imaginations of NBA fans.

This year? Not so much.

Add the 2011-2012 NBA Schedule release to the list of things the lockout has ruined, a list which already includes

  • Off season free agent discussions
  • Crazy draft night wheeling and dealing, thanks to owners afraid to mess with their cap status
  • The NBA’s popularity momentum after an incredible season with an amazing ending
  • My perception of owners as something other than money hungry whores who don’t know how to spend their cash wisely

And, in all honesty…

  • MY ENTIRE #*%$@ SUMMER!!1!!!!1!

*Taking a calming breath*. Curses. Anyway, continuing my campaign of intentional ignorance, in which I pretend that the lockout is actually a very bad dream (one that will go away if I lie in bed long enough to wake up), I refuse to let this momentous event be ruined.

In honor of the schedule release, I picked 5 games from the upcoming season that I will absolutely witness in person, and that I recommend to you as well. I intentionally left out some games that I will be attending for other reasons, like the Heat (to see LeBron), the Lakers (to see a contender), the Celtics (…shut up), or the Clippers (you know damn well why).

These games are interesting from a Timberwolves fan’s perspective. They offer interesting matchups for some of Minny’s younger stars, and could prove to be exciting, competitive measuring sticks of Minnesota’s progress.

November 9 vs Phoenix- The 3rd game of the season features a matchup that feels a bit like a changing of the guard. You know, from one floppy haired, foreign born, ultra creative point guard with obscene court vision and basketball IQ to another. While Rubio will almost certainly not be acclimated to the NBA game by this point, it should be fun nonetheless to watch these two compete.

November 25 vs Houston- No, seriously…the Timberwolves are going to play a nationally televised game on ESPN2. Clearly, ESPN expects to see a pissed off and jilted Jonny Flynn/Brad Miller showdown. I anticipate Jonny going for 20/20 (20 points, 20 turnovers) and Brad Miller tearing Houston’s defense to shreds with a devastating display of flat-footed set shots from 15 feet away.

Seriously though, when I attend a game, I love watching it later on TV to see what other people (in this case, at LEAST 13 of them) saw from their point of view. I recommend it for you as well. So make an EXTRA big sign incorporating the letters “ESPN” (perhaps “bEasley Smokes comPetition Now”) and you too can look like a gigantic fool on national television.

See you there!

December 26 vs Oklahoma City- Last time Oklahoma City visited the Target Center, Minnesota was one Kevin Love baby hook shot (which bounced around the rim and rolled out) away from winning a thriller at the buzzer. Instead, the game went to overtime, en route to Kevin Durant dropping 47 and leading the Thunder to a 118-117 heartbreaker. Minnesota got better by adding better players. The Thunder got better by making the Western Conference Finals. This game has some potential.

But more importantly, the Thunder are the model every small market team (eg. Minnesota) are trying to follow, if they are wise (eg. not run by David Kahn). Last season, OKC coach Scott Brooks told reporters that Minnesota was exactly where the Thunder were two years ago, and that they will be competitive very soon. We sure hope so, Scott. Using the Thunder as a measuring stick might not be a bad idea.

February 10 vs Chicago- Games against elite point guards will prove fascinating this season, as we watch Rubio adjust to the NBA game. Derrick Rose might not be the best PURE point guard in the NBA (go look at Tom Ziller’s graph of pure point guard immediately¬†or your day will not be complete), a distinction I personally continue to reserve for Chris Paul, but Rose is almost certainly a more gifted player, one of the best in the NBA.

Scouts have reported that Rubio is an excellent defender, but only an average athlete. Will he be able to keep up with an opponent of Rose’s caliber? More importantly, don’t you want to find out in person?

(As an added plus, I may have mentioned, those who attend this game get to see Derrick Rose in person.)

April 4 vs Cleveland- Yeah, I said it. Cleveland. I’ll be there.

Why you ask? Is it to see if Derrick Williams will punish the team who passed on him in the draft? Mmhmm. A closer look at the player Minnesota “missed out on” by not getting the first overall pick? You betcha. But, possibly more important, if the Timberwolves are mired in another tough season, this game might be an opportunity for an encouraging late season win for the young T-Wolves.

Let’s just hope it doesn’t come to that, yeah?

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