|2008/2009 NBA Regular Season|
|December 3rd, 2008|
|Randy Foye||PG||Jameer Nelson|
|Mike Miller||SG||J.J. Redick|
|Ryan Gomes||SF||Hedo Turkoglu|
|Al Jefferson||PF||Rashard Lewis|
|Jason Collins||C||Dwight Howard|
Jameer Nelson might be available tonight. Brian Schmitz says the Magic will know for sure once they finish their shootaround today. UPDATE: Nelson is out once again, but may be able for Friday's game against Oklahoma City. Keith Bogans says he's ready to play tonight.
No, the Minnesota Timberwolves are not a particularly good team. However, they were good enough to defeat the Orlando Magic last April (see the most maddening GameFlow of all-time), so they're not to be taken lightly. The trouble with that April loss was the Magic's total lack of focus, coupled with hot shooting nights from 'Wolves guards Randy Foye and Rashad McCants. The good news is that the Magic will be exceptionally motivated after getting pummeled in Boston on Monday night. The bad news is they don't have anyone who can guard Foye or McCants... anyone healthy, anyway. The counter to that is, I suppose, that Foye and McCants don't guard anyone either.
Even if they only manage to break even in the backcourt, the Magic should win the battle up front. Al Jefferson is a load in the low post, but he's nothing probable Defensive Player of the Year award-winner Dwight Howard can't handle. The Magic can shift Rashard Lewis to guard Jason Collins, the Timberwolves' offensively challenged starting center. Although he doesn't play many minutes, Lewis shouldn't have much trouble with rookie Kevin Love, Collins' backup.
But Howard vs. Jefferson is clearly the matchup of the night. Jefferson, for all his offensive gifts, still has trouble guarding a traffic cone. Or he used to, anyway. He's changed his defensive attitude, and as such recorded a career-high six blocked shots in a loss to Charlotte last weekend. The trade-off is that he's expending so much energy on defense that it's affected his offense. Even if Dwight has a pedestrian night offensively--say, 18 points on 50% shooting--he should be able to make up for it by shutting Jefferson down on the other end.
Another matchup to watch is McCants vs. J.J. Redick. I see no reason why Redick can't develop into a rich-man's McCants sort of player. Although his career shooting percentages don't bear it out, Redick is a purer shooter than the man they call 'Shaddy, and he likely won't require as many touches to score. He'll also turn the ball over less. Am I nuts?
I really expect a big night from the Magic. Even with a limited, seven-to-eight-man rotation, Stan Van Gundy has a coaching advantage over Randy Wittman, who's talking like a man about to be out of a job (HT: Canis Hoopus). It should be an easy victory... but last April's game should have been, too, just to show you how much that matters. (I tend to be especially bitter about losses I witnessed live and in-person.)
Head over to Canis Hoopus, SB Nation's 'Wolves blog, for the view from up North. Here's the official preview from the Timberwolves' website. The tip's at 7 on Sun Sports. Go Magic.