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Washington Wizards vs. Minnesota Timberwolves: Regular Season Game 28 Open Thread

The Essentials:

Wizards (10-17) vs. Timberwolves (6-24)
8 p.m.
Target Center
Radio: 106.7 The Fan

Notable Timberwolves numbers this season

29th in expected winning percentage (.184)
3rd in pace (95.9 possessions per game)
28th in offensive efficiency/offensive rating (98.4 points/100 possessions)
24th in defensive efficiency/defensive rating (109.5 points/100 possessions allowed)

Pre-game links

Canis Hoopus, SB Nation's Minnesota Timberwolves blog
Howlin' TWolf, a Timberwolves blog
TWolves Blog
Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune on the return of the former TWolves
Michael Lee on the same topic
Michael Lee: The Other Side: Timberwolves
GameDay Minnesota

Tonight's Projected Starters
Wizards vs. Timberwolves
Gilbert Arenas PG Jonny Flynn
Randy Foye SG Corey Brewer
Caron Butler SF Damien Wilkins
Antawn Jamison PF Kevin Love
Brendan Haywood C Al Jefferson

UPDATE: The game is blacked out locally on NBATV. If you have Comcast, go to channel 4 - the game isn't on the program guide, but that's where it is. If you have Fios ... uhh ... not sure what to tell you. Sorry.

UPDATE: Michael Lee tweets that Arenas is expected to start.

And thus begins the much-anticipated first game between the Minnesota Timberwolves and the former Minnesota Timberwolves on the Washington Wizards. (drumroll please).

Okay, so maybe the dramatic effect is a little ridiculous. But the NBA did decide to put this game on NBATV tonight, for some reason. Which means it won't be available on League Pass, which is hella annoying. But hey, anytime you can broadcast the return of Randy Foye to the Target Center, you do it.

If you're into the "return of Foye and Flip Saunders" angle, I suggest reading both Michael Lee's and Jerry Zgoda's articles linked above. Both are very well done, particularly the part about how Foye was blindsighted by the trade, even though Minnesota GM David Kahn didn't even bother to do an exit interview with him. If anything should have been a harbinger of what was to come, it should have been that.

Now, the Timberwolves are a mess of a roster, with Kahn having decided to punt this season and maybe the next couple so he can build for the future. The Timberwolves are running the Triangle Offense, except with Corey Brewer, Wayne Ellington, Damien Wilkins and Sasha Pavlovic as their wing players. Ramon Sessions, a perfectly decent point guard, can't ever get good minutes because they're pushing Jonny Flynn, and Al Jefferson continues to struggle after ACL surgery last year. Basically, this team sucks right now.

But I do have a couple slight concerns. The first is tempo - as you can see, Minnesota is playing at the third-fastest pace in the league this year. It's as if they know scoring in transition is their only chance because their half-court offense is abysmal. In Love and Flynn, they have two guys who are capable of long passes up the court to their wings. Getting back will be paramount, and considering the Wizards' disinclination to do so at times last year, I'm a bit concerned.

The other concern requires a closer look at Minnesota's shot defense. According to HoopData, here are the Wolves' ranks in the league in terms of effective field goal percentage against, by shot location:

  • At the rim: 27th
  • Inside of 10 feet: 28th
  • 10-15 feet: 10th
  • 16-23 feet: 10th
  • Three-point range: 22nd

The only areas in which Minnesota's defense is passable is from 10-23 feet. Where do the Wizards take most of their shots? From 10-23 feet. What have the Wizards not done particularly well this year? Convert jump shots from 10-23 feet. If you're patient, you will get open layups and threes on this defense, as indicated by these stats, but the Wizards need to be patient, which is something they haven't been much of the year.

This also represents a chance for the Wizards to win three in a row, something they have yet to do this year. That also concerns me. Zgoda is also saying Gilbert Arenas and Earl Boykins are game-time decisions (Arenas with the hip he hurt in Milwaukee, Boykins ostensibly with overeating on Christmas, I don't know). That also concerns me.

But maybe I'm just worrying for no reason. Minnesota is awful. This should be a win for us as we start to get back on track.