The Washington Wizards return tonight to host the struggling Minnesota Timberwolves. Minnesota is missing half their players, has lost eight of its last 10 games, and even at full strength doesn't match up particularly well with Washington. Washington should also be well-rested, something that could have a large effect on the play of Nene and Bradley Beal, as both players are currently dealing with nagging injuries.
Where and When? Tip off is at 7 p.m. at the Verizon Center.
Why Should I Care? Minnesota has been decimated by injuries. As a result, Washington has a great chance at getting a win.
Are They Good? At full strength, yes, Minnesota has a very solid team. Tonight? Not at all. Minnesota is 17-22 on the year, but on paper, their current lineup should be much worse than that.
Who's Out? Minnesota will be without a whopping six players tonight: Brandon Roy, Chase Budinger, Kevin Love, Alexey Shved, Nikola Pekovic and Malcolm Lee. Cartier Martin is the only Wizard who is not expected to play.
What Are They Good At? Defense. The Timberwolves lack a traditional, shut-down-the-paint center and have experienced an enormous amount of roster instability due to all of their injuries. Nonetheless, the team has managed post the NBA's 11th best defensive rating this year. Andrei Kirilenko has been phenomenal defensively this season, and his length and mobility perfectly complements the ball-hawking of point guard Ricky Rubio.
What Are They Bad At? Protecting the rim. Kirilenko and little-used Greg Stiemsa are the only players on the team who block shots at a high rate. Stiemsa has drastically improved the team's defense when he's seen the floor, although he gives up so much on the other end of the floor and on the glass that it's hard for Adelman to play him heavy minutes.
What Happened to Ricky Rubio? The Spanish point guard has struggled since returning from a knee injury and comes into tonight's game shooting 25 percent - no, that's not a typo - from the floor. Already a marginal athlete to begin with, Rubio's lack of burst has decimated his ability to finish at the rim. Defenses have no reason to respect him as a scorer and focus more on contesting his passes than his shots. As a result, he's been a net neutral offensive player despite his still-high assist rates.
Who's Going to Win? I don't see how Washington can be considered anything but the favorite tonight. Kirilenko could give Nene trouble and Rubio's ability to force turnovers might make Wall's night more difficult than he'd like it to be, but at the end of the day, Washington at (almost) full strength is better than the currently hobbled Timberwolves.
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