Game of the Week: Minnesota Timberwolves at Miami Heat
I like to write about games that are going to be broadcast on national television, but I might be deviating from that formuala with this game, which is on NBA TV. Does everyone have that?
To be honest, I don’t. Instead I have a neighbor who has NBA TV (Hi, Nael).
If you don’t have the channel or a neighbor, I apologize. If you are reading this blog, I’m guessing you’re a big basketball nerd, so you should probably get it, or make friends with a basketball nerd who does, or find a local bar that has it.
Any of these options will vastly improve your life, especially because you’ll be able to watch this game.
Here’s why that is a good thing.
Ricky Rubio‘s return has been the big story as of late, but I want to talk about a player who missed all of last season: Andrei Kirilenko. He wasn’t injured, unless you consider being Russian a medical condition. He simply chose to skip the whole lockout mess, which now seems like a great idea. Now, please forgive this, but I’m about to talk about my fantasy basketball team. I know you don’t care about my fantasy basketball team, but there’s a point to it. I drafted my fantasy basketball team the night before Hurricane Sandy made landfall. The draft was about 100 miles away, from my home in Bergen County to Cherry Hill, New Jersey. As I drove south, the clouds grew increasingly ominous, and I worried that I wouldn’t be able to make it home. It was an auction draft, so it took forever. By the time the last few rounds came around, I was haphazardly picking up players just so I could beat the storm home. One of those players was Andrei Kirilenko, who has turned out to be one of my most valuable contributors. It’s been the same story with the Timberwolves—they rolled the dice on a player who hadn’t played NBA ball in a year, and thus far, it’s paid off. He looks like the vicious defender he was in his mohawk days, and has been one of the most efficient scorers in the league. And he kept the Timberwolves competitive while they awaited the return of Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio. Not bad for a last-minute Hurricane Sandy pickup.
LeBron James is nobody’s last-minute pickup. No one in the league is asked to do more, and so far this season, he is coming through. The reigning MVP is among the league leaders in points, rebounds, assists and minutes per game, while sporting a plus-.600 true shooting percentage. He is in the midst of his most efficient shooting campaign, thanks to a huge improvement in his three-point shooting. On Tuesday, he’ll likely be matched up with Kevin Love, who might be the best power forward in the league. I feel sorry for Love.
What to Watch For
I hope everyone read Ian’s excellent work on shot selection. One of the takeaways was that the expected value of a free throw is greater than a shot at the rim or a three-pointer. If that’s the case, then a defense is well served by defending without fouling. The Timberwolves have done that, and it’s helped them become one of the best defensive teams in the league. Maintaining that trend will be key, as players like James and Chris Bosh are efficient enough without sending them to the line.
Miami boasts one of the most efficient offenses in the league. I mentioned James and Bosh, who are among the league leaders in field goal percentage, but they are not the only contributors to this offense. Newcomers Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, together with Shane Battier, have made the Heat one of the best three-point shooting teams in the league. While Miami was not that prolific from distance last year, they have embraced the long ball this season, ranking ninth in three-pointers made and third in three-point percentage. The Timberwolves have been one of the better squads at defending the three-point line, and they will be tested on Tuesday.
Why Else Should I Watch?
Obviously Ricky Rubio, the Spanish Unicorn. He’s adorable.
How to Watch
NBA TV, Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. eastern time.
Leage Pass Bonus Game
San Antonio Spurs at Oklahoma City Thunder, Monday, 8 p.m. eastern time. Why is this game not on national television? Is the NBA really just going to roll over any time the NFL is also on TV? I’m a Jets fan, and I would much rather watch this game than see them play the Tennessee Titans on Monday Night Football.