This is the first in a series of game preview Q&A's I'll be having with other NBA and team bloggers about once a week. For tonight's game, I talked to Zach Harper from TalkHoops, who is also a huge Timberwolves fan. Be sure to visit his site and support the habit.
1. How do you feel the Timberwolves match up with the Spurs?
This definitely isn't the same Kevin Garnett led team that used to go toe-to-toe with Tim Duncan and company. The Wolves have an awful time of defending the post inside and that poses a problem when you're attempting to guard Duncan. The Wolves haven't been great from three-point range so far this year but with Rashad McCants, Randy Foye, and Mike Miller they have dangerous shooters who can get hot and carry them for a quarter or two. The key will be the bench of the Wolves and how they play. They have had one of the best scoring benches in the league so far this year and if they can outplay the Spurs bench then it will keep them close for most of the game. Otherwise, they don't seem to match up well against the Spurs big three.
2. Al Jefferson plays Duncan very well. What do yo you think is key for Al in containing Duncan?
The key for Al containing Duncan will be defensive rotation. Jefferson is actually a pretty bad one on one defender and with Craig Smith and Kevin Love as the other options, it looks likely that Duncan can pick this defense apart. But if the double teams come quickly and the Wolves wing players can rotate effectively to stop the three-point shot and then recover to take away any penetration then Duncan will have to force shots. Jefferson will also need to have a good night scoring that forces Duncan to work when guarding him. They have to make Duncan expend energy on both ends of the floor.
3. One of Tony Parker's better games before his injury was against the Timberwolves, scoring 55 points in a game that went to extra periods. What do you think the Wolves have to do to limit his penetration and keep him from going off again?
This has everything to do with how the Wolves defend the pick-and-roll and how quickly Randy Foye can move his feet. Foye can be a good perimeter defender but he has to take away Parker's ability to split the double team and get to the basket. The only way to stop Parker at this point is to hope that his outside jumper isn't falling. Despite what the box score says, I'm convinced that Tony didn't miss a single shot in that 55-point domination earlier in the year. Foye will also have to make Parker work on defense and they have to be physical with him when he takes it to the basket. If Parker is comfortable on offense, there's no one on the Wolves who can contain him.
4. The Wolves are on a seven-game losing streak and they've also been in a bit of a shooting slump. What do they have to do tonight to break that streak, even though it may only be for one game since you guys play the Lakers on Sunday?
As simple as it sounds, the Wolves just have to knock down their outside shots. They do a great job of moving the ball and are in the top 10 in assists amongst NBA teams. But they make the fifth fewest three-point shots in the league despite having good outside shooters. Mike Miller has to have a good game against the Spurs if his ankle allows him to play. No matter what, it's going to be tough for the Wolves to score against a defensive unit like the Spurs. Guys like Ryan Gomes, Craig Smith, and Sebastian Telfair are going to have to find a way to combine for at least 35 to 40 points in order for the Wolves to put up enough points to win this game.
5. Kevin McHale is considered by many to be one if the worst GM's in the league. How do you think he will do as coach and did you agree or disagree with the firing?
Kevin McHale had a good run his first time coaching this franchise when he had KG running things and he deferred a lot to his assistant coaches for the X's and O's. I don't think he understands coaching enough to be a coach that can make a difference but he certainly won't be worse than what Randy Wittman was giving them. Wittman is a career assistant coach and had no business becoming a head coach this time with Minnesota. I didn't agree with the hiring in the first place and the firing is definitely justified. He is a bad coach and was way too hard on the young players. With Wittman out now and Kevin McHale looking to be headed out after this season from all facets of this franchise, I'm hoping a new regime can come in and turn this team into a respectable team.
6. Final question. What's your prediction for tonight's game and what will the score be?
I think that the way you beat this Spurs team is with a good point guard penetrating through the top of the Spurs defense and causing havoc once he gets into the second tier of defense. It's the only way that you can put the Spurs team on their heels and get them out of their rotations and execution. Unfortunately, the Wolves have Randy Foye as their point guard. He's a good player and a nice offensive weapon, but he's a combo guard and shouldn't be a full-time point. I expect the Spurs defense to be crisp and the Wolves interior defense to be exposed. Spurs 98, Wolves 84.
Thanks to Zach for participating. If you'd like to participate in a future game preview Q&A or if you have questions you'd like included, email me at michael at projectspurs dot com.