Timberwolves at Cavaliers Preview: Run it Back

Wow, what a game last night! I mean, at first it looked like the Timberwolves were about to blow away the Knicks like they did to the Thunder, but then they rallied back to make it a close game halfway through the fourth and things got interesting. Fortunately, the Timberwolves held on to what would have been an embarrassing collapse considering the lead they held for much of the game. Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic played heavy minutes but that’s okay because they don’t play another game until…oh, today. Welp.

Back-to-backs can often be dreaded no matter who the opponent is, but especially against a Cavs team that is expected to be pretty good despite their early season returns. They’re 1-2 and have lost two in a row but Kyrie is still trying to find his rhythm as well as a few key rotation players, so the Cavaliers are a bit of a sleeping giant.

Yeah, their offense has been a bit of a mess; they’re 30th in points allowed and they’re ranked 25th in field goal percentage. On top of that, they’re 22nd in assists so far. So why am I worried about the Cavs, especially on short rest? Defense, rebounding and turnovers.

Yes, despite the fact that they’ve struggled offensively, they have been one of the NBA’s top defensive teams so far. The numbers verify this: 8th in opp. field goal percentage; 5th in defensive rating; and 10th in opp. eFG%. While they have had a tough time scoring, so have their opponents and Cleveland is number two in the entire league in percentage of defensive rebounds grabbed.

To summarize so far, the Cavs don’t make it easy to score and they don”t give up easy second chance points, but there is one more area that the Cavs have excelled in as well, and that would be in the turnovers department. The Cavs are in the top half of the league in terms of protecting the ball (12th), but are also in the top half of the league in forcing turnovers (also 12). Being smart against the Cavs is crucial, which is what the Timberwolves have been to this point, but they’ll need to carry that over into tomorrow’s game.

Don’t let the Cavs’ 1-2 record fool you– they’re better than that. It’s still early and Kyrie won’t shoot at the current level he is now. The Timberwolves will hope to have enough energy to keep the Cavs off of the boards and control the tempo of the game in order to force them to play their game. It’s worked for much of their first three games, but you don’t want someone like Kyrie getting hot at the wrong time. On the other hand, while they may not be the strongest defensive team in the land, if Minnesota can force and further frustrate Cleveland while they’re slumping, this could pay dividends for them as well.

Where: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland

When: 6pm CST

See it/Hear it: FSN/WCCO AM 830

About Derek James

In addition to writing for Howlin' T-Wolf, Derek James writes about basketball Hardwood Paroxysm in the ESPN TrueHoop Network and covers the Charlotte Bobcats for SB Nation’s Rufus on Fire. Andray Blatche and Isaiah Rider follow him on Twitter.