Open thread: Regular season game 8


The essentials:
Wizards (2-5) at Timberwolves (1-5)
8 p.m.
Target Center
CSN

Last year:
February 20: Wizards 112, Timberwolves 100.
February 25: Timberwolves 98, Wizards 94.

Notable Timberwolves numbers this season (pound the salt):
24th in expected winning percentage (.270).
17th in pace factor (90.9 possessions per game).
16th in offensive efficiency/offensive rating (106.0).
28th in defensive efficiency/defensive rating (113.8).

Notable Timberwolves numbers last season (with Kevin Garnett)
25th in expected winning percentage (.361).
17th in pace factor (89.6 posessions per game).
25th in offensive efficiency/offensive rating (105.3).
22nd in defensive efficiency/defensive rating (109.7).

Key links
T-Wolves Blog.
Talkin' T-Wolves.
Canis Hoops.
Wolves Watch.
Post: Wizards Starting to Think Big.
Bog Bio: Caron Butler.
T-Wolves blog blog preview.

Starting lineups:
Timberwolves
PG: Marko Jaric
SG: Rashad McCants
SF: Ryan Gomes
PF: Al Jefferson
C: Theo Ratliff

Wizards
PG: Gilbert Arenas
SG: DeShawn Stevenson
SF: Caron Butler
PF: Antawn Jamison
C: Brendan Haywood

Tonight's lines:
Wizards at Timberwolves: Wizards by 2.5.
Over/Under on Big 3 scoring: 61.6 points.

So after Wednesday's satisfying win over Indiana, the Wiz hit the road to play the Minnesota Celtics tonight.  With a tricky back-to-back game at home against the frisky Trailblazers tomorrow, Eddie's going to have to find a way to limit Gilbert's minutes tonight, so that he can be fresh for tomorrow.

Of course, the easiest way to do that is to just win badly.  Minnesota got their first win of the season against Sacramento Wednesday, but they still aren't a team we should be too concerned about.  Interestingly enough, through six games, their offense has been fairly decent, thanks mostly to Al Jefferson and the emergence of Rashad McCants.  McCants, in particular, has been a scoring machine, averaging 18 points in just 25 minutes per game.

Where Minnesota has suffered without Garnett is on the other end of the floor.  They weren't great there last year, but Garnett at least made them mediocre.  Now, without Garnett, there's no defensive presence inside, and nobody who can break up pick and rolls.  Theo Ratliff used to be a great shotblocker, but that was a million years ago.  Greg Buckner is a decent wing defender, and Corey Brewer has potential, but otherwise, there's nary a defensive guy on the roster.  Jefferson will score, but I see Antawn Jamison having a field day on him defensively.  

If I'm Eddie Jordan, I would use Darius Songaila extensively as a pick and roll guy for Gilbert Arenas when he's in the game.  Garnett was so good at stopping pick and rolls, but without him, who's going to be able to hedge and prevent Arenas from getting to the rim?  Jefferson?  Please.  Maybe Craig Smith can do the trick if he's in there, but otherwise, that's probably their best offense.  

Defensively, I'd put Haywood on Jefferson, and let Jamison take his chances against Theo Ratliff and Craig Smith.  McCants will be tough to stop, but DeShawn Stevenson is our best wing defender, so I'm fairly confident.  Plus, if we go big, McCants won't be able to guard Caron Butler.    

The closer the game is, though, the worse off we are.  Let's hope this is the blowout it should be.

This is an open game thread, so if you can find anyone who's hotter than Tom "The Bomb" Gugliotta, say so.

GO WIZARDS!

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