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Dallas Maverickcs (15-11) at Minnesota Timberwolves (13-13)
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Last game: Dallas: W, 105-95 at Denver; Minnesota: L, 85-80 at Memphis
But all of that is in the past. Kevin Love is back, and it’s 60′s night at the Target Center again in honor of the ABA’s Minnesota Muskies. The Wolves will don the hardwood classics for the second time this year, meaning I’ll be S.O.L. when I want to buy one again and I’ll have no money (It’s Lebron’s fault).
As for the game, this will be the third time these two face off this season, thanks to the shortened number of games. Would you believe if I also said the Wolves will be looking to beat the Mavs for the third straight time this season tonight too? 2-0 are the Wolves this year against the defending champs, who don’t look all that mighty anymore; Dirk isn’t anywhere near last season’s form — nor a All-Star bid, in my opinion; — the losses of Tyson Chandler and Barea are especially hurtful; and the additions they brought in, namely Lamar Odom, have been nothing useless. Although they have been starting to gel a bit lately, there isn’t a better time for the Wolves to step on the Mavs’ throats in this one — metaphorically, not literally, Kevin.
The Key Questions
#1) How ’bout a little rebounding?
Both Minnesota and Dallas rank in the top 10 in the NBA in rebounds per game. Can you guess who ranks better? Could you tell me the right answer after watching Wednesday night’s massacre in Memphis? The Wolves were out-rebounded 59-47 against a Memphis team without their best rebounder, Zach Randolph. You’d think that Kevin Love’s return hides that margin but don’t be too sure. In Love’s absence, we saw both Michael Beasley and Derrick Williams drastically improve on the glass, as well as Nikola Pekovic. Rebounding isn’t just a frontcourt skill; it should be a team goal.
#2) What Ricky will come to play tonight?
Tom noted in his recap for the Grizzlies game that Rajon Rondo fans have sat and seen him have some downright awful games, especially when it comes to shooting. Hell, it’s NBA nature to have a down night unless you’re Lebron. Rubio’s statline in Memphis is forgettable. Looking towards tonight, he’s had success against the Mavs in the last two games (31 points, 19 assists combined). Rubio seems to step his game up against big-named competition, but in order to reach that upper-echelon of point guards, he’s going to need to destroy the Mike Conley’s of the world. They need him big tonight.
#3) How do you contain Dirk?
You gotta admit, the Wolves have done an excellent job on Dirk this year already. Part of that was Anthony Tolliver and his versatile defense; part of that was Darko utilizing his size inside to not allow Dirk any easy buckets. The Wolves have the right personell to handle Dirk, or at least frustrate him; Dirk didn’t care for the double-teams from Rubio either.
Tonight could be a different story, though. Dirk has been on fire the last three games. Tolliver has seen his playing time be cut smaller and smaller as the weeks go on. Darko still isn’t certain to play tonight with his “ankle injury.” That leaves combos of Pek, Love, Williams, Miller and Randolph to contain Dirk. All I can say is, “Good luck with that.”
The Key Matchups
I won’t belabor this much anymore but obviously the key matchup is Dirk vs _______. Whoever fills that underline will have a difficult time with him tonight, my gut tells me.
The other matchup is, of course, Rubio vs Kidd. The two have been compared by analysts all over and they’re head-to-head matchups are really fun to watch. I don’t believe that Rubio is much like Kidd but at least close enough to make things interesting. Not to mention you’re watching the future of pass-first point guards in Rubio vs the old school pass-first chops of Kidd go mono-y-mono. Que da miendo.
It all depends on which of these two teams show up to play. The Mavs have looked ugly this year, and so have the Wolves. But both teams have also had their moments of brilliance. I’m hoping both of the latter show up and give the home crowd, likely a sell out crowd, too, what they want to see. I still feel this one comes down to defense and how the Wolves will be able to contain Dirk, but thinking of it from the Mavs’ perspective, Love is coming off of his suspension and will be looking to blow the roof off. Maybe it comes down to how well they can contain Love.
The game starts at 7 on Fox Sports North