If the Timberwolves win tonight it will be the best record through four games since 2000-01 when they went 6-0. A 3-1 start to this season would not only be historic but a great boost of confidence for this squad after one week of play. Let's look at some of the X-factors for tonight's match up against the Orlando Magic.
*Bench play: Amazingly enough it's been the play of the backup unit that has earned the Wolves their two wins thus far. Last Friday JJ Barea led the charge with 21 points in the defeat of the incredibly lousy Kings. This past Monday it was the leadership of Barea matched by the outstanding play of Alexey Shved, Chase Budinger and Dante Cunningham that helped the Wolves overcome a 22 point deficit against the Brooklyn Nets. The Wolves bench in both outings provided a necessary boost in energy and an agressive defensive effort to put away either opponents. With Ridnour's healing back and Roy's inability to move laterally and closely guard his opponents the Wolves starting five has yet to leave their mark on any contest so far. Roy's shot will soon fall and Pekovic will continue to become more comfortable leading his unit as he demonstrated on Monday, however, if these changes happen later rather than sooner it's possible Adelman may soon switch up the starting 5. If Roy continues to be a defensive liability and Williams fails to convert his shots at the rim we may see Budinger and Cunningham enter as their replacements. That being said, I still expect Roy to finally have a noteworthy performance tonight with Pek destroying Gustavo Ayon and Glen Davis leading to noticably less playing time for the bench.
*No Türkoğlu: After recently breaking his left hand the Magic are now searching to find a replacement at small forward. It's likely Afflalo will play more minutes at SF as he did last night against Chicago. Affalo found success in this role putting up a nice little stat line (28-5-5) yet it's hard seeing him and the rest of the Magic continuing to battle each night without one of their key veterans. Kirilenko will be able to put up a fight against Afflalo which means the ownest will be on the likes of Reddick, Davis and Moore to carry the weight of this team. The Magic's impressive run thus far is sure to be derailed, especially in the midst of injuries to Türkoğlu and Nelson, I wouldn't be suprised if that process starts tonight.
3 Point Attack: After the first half of Monday's game the Nets were shooting 61.5% from beyond the arc while the Wolves continued to encounter shooting woes from long range. Things changed for the better in the second half with Budinger and Shved draining 3 pointers in clutch moments no less. Adelman's system heavily relies upon good floor spacing, although the Wolves proved they have been able to implement this style of play they have not been able to drain their shots. Hopefully the change of pace seen in their comeback on Tuesday will be a continuing trend. Guys like Budinger and Shved fit perfectly into Adelman's schemes and once they convert it becomes very difficult for oppotents to handle the wide array of talent of this team.
Predictions: Wolves Win 104-91. MVP: Pekovic 19 PTS, 11 REBS, 2 BLKS.
The Wolves will be energized by their huge win on Monday in addition to playing at home and Roy and Pekovic will start finding their grooves. Remarkably, the Wolves will sit atop the Northwest Division for a little longer.