The Dallas Mavericks travel to Minnesota to take on the Timberwolves back-to-back after suffering a blowout loss at the hand of the less-than-stellar cellar dwellar Toronto Raptors. Didja like that? The Mavs will have to be on their game with the up-and-coming TWolves, who are a respectable 11-9 despite a host of injuries that have kept Kevin Love, Brandon Roy and Ricky Rubio out for significant stretches of the season.
Tonight in Toronto it appears Rubio will play his first game of the season and that will be a huge complement to a potent front line that includes Love, blossoming Nicola Petrovic and wily veteran Andrei Kirilenko, all of whom can score, rebound and defend. The backcourt is less potent but has former Mav J. J. Barea and Luke Ridenour, who started most of the games in Rubio’s absence and will be significantly bolstered by his return. Roy remains out with further trouble in his knees that he seemed to believe were NBA-ready again. Former Mav star Josh Howard has also joined the TWolves this year.
The TWolves are not dominating their opponents but do have a big advantage in the Mavs’ weakest area, under the glass, where they outrebound their opponents by nearly 5 boards a game. Contrast that to the Mavericks, who are on the wrong side of that statistic by about 4 1/2 and it doesn’t provide an optimistic picture for the Mavs’ chances in this game.
Assuming the Mavericks don’t have another horrible shooting night and turn the ball over, they are unlikely to pull this game out without at least not being blown out under the backboard. Now is as good a time as any for Coach Rick Carlisle to stress the fundamentals and perhaps give some time to Bernard James who has shown solid rebounding and defense on a front line that has been lacking. That doesn’t bode well for giving more time to Brandan Wright even though he is shooting 66%. James’ time has dwindled as well, likely because of his underdeveloped offensive game on a team that hasn’t shot well either and has relied almost exclusively on Chris Kaman for any sort of inside game. Of course, that screams at me to try a “balanced approach” (sound familiar?) and demand more out of Elton Brand if he’s going to be on the floor.
Hopefully one of these blowouts is going to serve as a wakeup call but if perhaps staying around .500 is all we can expect until Dirk returns, at least they can use this time to work on the glaring weaknesses and we can be thankful that the record isn’t much worse.