Jan 25, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio (9) dribbles the ball as Washington Wizards point guard John Wall (2) defends in the fourth quarter at Verizon Center. The Wizards won 114-101. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: Washington Wizards vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (Key Match Up, Notes, and Prediction)


The Wizards are coming off arguably their most disappointing loss of the season to the Cleveland Cavaliers in overtime, but they’ll have a chance to redeem themselves tonight against the surging Minnesota Timberwolves. The game will tip off at 7:00 PM from the Verizon Center.

Key Match Up:

Averaging nearly 27 points and 14 rebounds per game, Kevin Love has played at an MVP level this season and is by far the best player at his position. Love presents a huge problem to virtually every team in the NBA, given the fact that he can score in the post as well as he can from the perimeter. He’s shooting a career high 36% from beyond the three point arc (remember when Wizards coach, then T-Wolves coach, Randy Wittman told Love to stop shooting threes?which makes him unstoppable on the offensive side of the floor.

With that said, the Wizards are going to need all the effort they could get to contain Love tonight. Nene has done a surprisingly good job defending forwards that stretch the floor this season, but Love is an entirely different player. Even if his shot isn’t falling, he’s still capable of dominating the glass which is an area Nene has struggled with his entire career. Nene hasn’t been a particularly great rebounder this season and he’ll need to step it up against Love, or else this game will become ugly fairly quickly. Oh, and Love is paired up with the Balkan Bulldozer, Nikola Pekovic, who’s not too shabby himself. Needless to say, the T-Wolves will present a lot of problems for the struggling Wizards tonight, especially their front court.

Notes:

  • Eric Maynor, who the Wizards brought in to replace A.J. Price as their primary backup point guard, has fallen out of the rotation. Price now plays for the Timberwolves.
  • Minnesota is third in the NBA in points, scoring 108.5 points per contest. The Clippers and Rockets are the only teams ahead of them.
  • The Timberwolves also have the sixth best defense in the league.
  • As I noted already, Randy Wittman’s last stop as a head coach before landing in the nation’s capital was with the Timberwolves. He was fired after a 4-19 start.

Prediction:

A lot has to go right for the Wizards to pull out a win tonight.

Minnesota has looked great right out of the gate and they’ve shown no signs of regressing as the season progresses. Kevin Love is a bonafide superstar and it doesn’t hurt that he’s surrounded with an unselfish point guard, knock down shooting guard, and a bruiser down low. Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, and Nikola Pekovic have all blossomed into very good NBA players and Love finally has a supporting cast that will help him put W’s in the win column.

On the other hand, the Wizards need to start winning games and it wouldn’t hurt to start tonight at home. John Wall has spoke about wanting to attack the basket more, which is an area he hasn’t been consistent in at all this season. Bradley Beal and Martell Webster have to become more reliable from three, since they have a tendency to be streaky at times. If the Wizards’ big men could contain Love and Pekovic, they should be able to compete tonight.

I don’t see them finishing on top tonight. Minnesota will sneak out with another close victory.

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