This edition of “Fo’ with the Foes” – Philadunkia’s advanced scouting series, which with the help of an accomplished journalist from around the NBA beat or blog world, previews key upcoming 76ers games – features tonight’s opponent, the Minnesota Timberwolves, who have lost 6-of-their-last-7, but feature a rising star in their highly entertaining second year guard Andrew Wiggins.
After the jump, I’ll look at Fo’ key items for tonight’s game. Additionally, we’ll get a little more insight into this Minnesota team the Sixers face tonight from our colleague Jonah Steinmeyer at howlintwolf.com, as Jonah will answer Fo’ questions on his T-Wolves squad from us here at Philadunkia.
Here are Fo’ key items I will be watching for tonight from the Sixers end…
1) Momentum, Possibly???: I know the Sixers coughed up their largest lead of the season Saturday, a 17-point edge early in the 3rd quarter during their 96-91 loss in Miami. I also know that the loss featured a 20-4 Heat run to the end the game. Still, I am hoping the 76ers can garner some momentum from what I would argue was their best 2 1/2 quarters of basketball this season and use it to jump all over the reeling Twolves (lost 6-of-their-last-7) early on in this game.
2) Grant vs. Covington: Jerami Grant was in the first-five again on Saturday night vs. Miami and posted an 0-7 shooting night. Meanwhile, “Cov” came off the bench to score 21 points, thanks to 6-11 shooting from the field (3-6 from three). I’ll be very interested to see who Brown starts tonight and how he distributes the minutes between theses two small forwards. Don’t get me wrong I love the scoring punch “Cov” can potentially provide for the Sixers’ reserve unit, but Grant in not a starter in this League under any circumstances, so his status as a member of the starting five has to change. Additionally, I feel Covington has earned that starting spot with his solid play last season.
3) The 3-Ball: Both of these teams rank in the bottom five in the Association when it comes to shooting the trey (Sixers 27th at 30% and Wolves 26th at 31). Minnesota was 3 of 13 from 3-point range on Friday night in their loss to Detroit. The Sixers shot 10-31 from deep against the Heat on Saturday night (32%). Brown’s starters were 2-10 from three on Saturday. Nik Stauskas, the ace shooter we acquired this summer was 2-7 from behind the arc against Miami and is now hitting threes at 26% clip this season. JESUS. If the 3-point challenged Sixers can find the range tonight, I like their chances of securing their first win of the season.
4) Get the Win: As we all recall, the 76ers were 0-17 last year before winning at Minnesota (85-77). Additionally, they swept the 2-game series against the Wolves last season. Minnesota has lost two in a row, 6 of 7 and is 0-6 this season at home. Lastly, the Wolves are simply awful on defense recently — opponents are scoring 106.4 ppg. and shooting 47.3% from the field during that seven game stretch. Put bluntly, the Wolves are a mess right now and the Sixers should be able to take advantage of that and steal a win tonight. Plus, I had this game marked as one of the wins the Sixers could grab during the 2-16 start I predicted, so that has to count for something, right?!?
Q&A with Jonah Steinmeyer at howlintwolf.com:
Philadunkia: Andrew Wiggins closed 2014-15 on a very strong note and appears to have taken his game to the next level early on this season. What has impressed you the most about his development this season?
Jonah Steinmeyer at howlintwolf.com: It’s true; Andrew Wiggins is growing up before our very own eyes. He’s improved in just about every positive statistical category from last season to now, but what’s been the most encouraging is his aggressiveness and overall demeanor. There’s a camp of people out there that criticize Wiggins’ attitude and for coming off as too aloof. That’s simply not the case this season. He’s looking to dunk on 7-footers, spin off of the elite defenders and draw contact on nearly every shot attempt. In fact, his free throw attempts are up over two shots per game this year and it’s a direct result from him coming out early and staying aggressive, especially when the Timberwolves need him most down the stretch. There’s a Timberwolves players that you actually have to worry if the game is on the line near the end now!
Philadunkia: The Wolves have dropped 6 of 7 and the defensive issues that plagued the team in 2014-15 seem to have returned. Has defense been to blame for the recent losing ways or is there another issue?
Jonah Steinmeyerat howlintwolf.com: You could say the Timberwolves’ defensive deficiencies have returned to a degree, but, as you may know, that’s the Achilles heel with any young team in the league. Good defensive teams learn from their mistakes and the Wolves and 76ers both don’t have enough experience yet to even sniff that status. However, with the individual pieces coming together and Kevin Garnett acting as a general of sorts on that end, the Timberwolves are slowly but surely getting better on that side of the ball. Eventually, with time, they absolutely have the individual pieces to become a top-10 defense in the league, but it’ll take some time and some hard-learned lessons to get there.
Philadunkia: What aspect(s) of Karl Anthony-Towns’ game been a pleasant surprise so far this season?
Jonah Steinmeyer at howlintwolf.com: Karl-Anthony Towns’ poise and composure and intensity are all incredibly surprising and welcome to Timberwolves fans. In fact, it actually all feels very familiar. He reminds me of a young Kevin Garnett when he came in to the league. Just a kid playing in the big leagues, Towns has quickly established himself as a serious threat to any team on both ends of the floor. He’s already our best interior defender, and he’s carved out a niche on offense as a low-post scorer with a special little midrange fadeaway. I knew he’d be good, but I didn’t think he’d be this good this quickly. Now it seems like there’s no telling how good he can get.
Philadunkia: Is Garnett’s leadership/mentor role with the Wolves being accurately portrayed or over-hyped by the national media?
Jonah Steinmeyer at howlintwolf.com: It’s pretty accurate as far as I can tell. His quote about shaking up puppies in a box and then dumping them out to see what happens is legitimately how I see a routine practice going. Not only do you have Sam Mitchell and his old-school ways sculpting the culture in Minnesota but you have Garnett and his intensity fueling the fire as well (It’s somehow special to see him scream and cheer for Towns, specifically). So despite him not playing very many minutes this season, his impact is still felt in that leadership/mentor role.
Thanks to Jonah for his time and answers. Give him a follow on Twitter @.
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