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Bobcats @ Timberwolves preview: 3-on-3 with AWAW

Who: Minnesota Timberwolves vs Charlotte Bobcats

What: NBA Basketball – Timberwolves Home Game

When: 8:00 PM ET

Where: Live at Target Center, Minneapolis, MN.

The Matchup:

Record Offensive
Minnesota 5-2 99.4 (18) 95.5 (4) 92.4 (27)
Charlotte 3-3 102.6 (9) 102.6 (26) 95.0 (14)

Previous Meetings:

Minnesota: Ricky Rubio (OUT), Kevin Love (OUT), Chase Budinger (OUT), Brandon Roy (OUT), Nikola Pekovic (OUT)
Charlotte: Gerald Henderson (OUT), Ben Gordon (Probable)

Starting Lineups

Timberwolves Bobcats
PG Luke Ridnour Kemba Walker
SG Malcolm Lee Jeffery Taylor
SF Andrei Kirilenko Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
PF Derrick Williams Byron Mullens
C Greg Stiemsma Brendan Haywood
6th Man Alexey Shved Ramon Sessions

3-on-3 TrueHoop Network Both Minnesota and Charlotte have gotten off to somewhat surprising starts to the season. The T’Wolves have been able to start 5-2 without their core of Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love. The Bobcats have been able to get through their first six games at .500, and considering they only won seven games all of last season…well, you catch my drift. Tonight seemingly sets up as a let down game for Charlotte as they are coming off a home game last night, flew to Minneapolis and have to turn around and play in a different time zone tonight. Zach Harper, from CBSSports.com and ESPN TrueHoop blog ‘A Wolf Among Wolves’ joins us to breakdown tonight’s contest.

1- STATS: Bobcats depend on offense heavily and playing at as quick of a tempo as possible (14th in PACE- 95; 9th in Off. Efficiency- 102.6). The T’Wolves, on the other hand, depend on solid defense and slowing the game down (4th in Def. Efficiency- 95.5; 27th in PACE- 92.4). Identifying these differences in styles, what’s the most important aspect of the game for each team to focus on in order to have success tonight?

Spencer: The Bobcats have to be competitive on the glass and force some turnovers in order to stay competitive. On the contrary, if the T’Wolves win in the rebounding category and take care of the ball (12 or less turnovers), forcing Charlotte to operate more in the half-court then I don’t see Minnesota having too much of a problem winning tonight.

Zach Harper (CBSSports.com): For the Wolves, it’s been limiting turnovers. When Barea or Rubio or Shved are at the point, they seem to push the tempo quite a bit. With Ridnour out there, they’re a much slower team, mainly because his passing and driving ability isn’t what it needs to be for a fast system. When the Wolves limit their turnovers, they’re a pretty good offensive team (which most are, I guess). For the Bobcats, it’s going to be defensive rebounding. Charlotte is a good offensive rebounding team but give up the second highest rate of offensive rebounds. Wolves are the eighth best offensive rebounding team in the league, even without Kevin Love. Take care of the ball and win the rebounding battle. Pretty simple basketball.

Brett: The Bobcats need to push the pace given the opportunity.  The offense still has a tendency to stagnate in the half-court, with Sessions or Walker forced to create at the end of the shot clock, coming off a screen.  MKG and Kemba both put lots of pressure on the defense when they get an advantage on the break, and the Bobcats will need those easy points.

2- OPINION: Derrick Williams and Bismack Biyombo have both been a bit underwhelming following their lottery selections in the summer of 2011. Assess the early season performances so far this year from each and make a case for which guy you’d take moving forward.

Spencer: This question boils down to upside with me. Biz, although struggling and seeing limited minutes under Dunlap this season, definitely has far more upside than Williams does at this point. To me, at least. I don’t know that Derrick Williams will ever develop into a true SF or PF. Biz will always be a difference maker on the defensive end- especially if he learns to stay on his feet vs every ball fake that’s thrown his way. Offensively, Biyombo is going to be a project for a long time, but it’s good knowing the Bobcats knew that going in.

Zach: Both players have a problem doing something with the ball once they catch it. I love the way Williams is playing this year. He’s attacking the glass, he’s played really good defense against guys like David West and Carlos Boozer, and he’s taking better shots. He just can’t make anything. The problem for him is Dante Cunningham is playing out of his mind when he comes in, so Williams has a short leash. For Bismack, he just doesn’t look confident with the ball. It’s not the same player we saw developing in Summer League in July. Going forward, I’d probably take Biyombo because I like a guy that can rebound and protect the rim. Also, he would fit Minnesota better than Williams currently does.

Brett: Williams and Bismack are both young, with good traits – Williams has the ability to play the 3/4 and can move out to the 3-point line.  Bismack is springy, with long arms, and the potential to be a game changing defender.  And so far, they’re both more potential than production – last year and continuing into this season.  Which to take?  I’ll go with the consensus wisdom entering the draft last year and take Derrick Williams for the long term, but I am not throwing in the towel on Bismack.

3- PICK IT. At 5-2, the T’Wolves seem to be figuring out how to survive until the return of Rubio and Love. At 3-3, and on a two game winning streak, the Bobcats have started to establish their new and improved identity. Who takes the next step forward tonight in Minnesota and why?

Spencer: Minnesota. And easily. This has the smell of a classic letdown game for the Bobcats. Played last night, had to fly overnight to Minnesota, changing time zones and going up against a team on one night’s rest. As I pointed out in the first question, as long as the T’Wolves take care of the basketball and force the Bobcats to play more in the half court than they like then I don’t think this will be a very stressful game for Minnesota.

Zach: I’ll probably go with the Wolves winning because I think Pekovic will play. Even if he doesn’t, this team has been resilient and playing phenomenal defense, which isn’t something I expected out of them. The Bobcats are on the second night of a back-to-back and on the road. They also haven’t won on the road yet. It wouldn’t shock me if Charlotte won tonight. I love what they’ve done to change the culture there. It’s just hard to win on the road in back-to-backs when you’re a young team. Even if they’re going against The Wolves’ second and third strings and Kirilenko.

Brett: I’ll take the home team, Minnesota.  The Bobcats are 3-3, but that includes 0-2 on the road, and coming off a game last night.  Ben Gordon will have fresh legs, but the rest of the team may not – Henderson is out, and both MKG and Kemba were slowed last night by various ailments (never did figure out what Steve Martin was referencing about Kemba).  Actually, I just realized the Wolves are now without Love, Rubio, and Buddinger (and maybe Pekovic?).  I’ll take the healthier team, the Bobcats.