Tonight, the up and coming Minnesota Timberwolves [8-4] look to defeat the heavily favored Chicago Bulls [9-6].
Here's your starting lineups for this anticipating match-up:
Chicago Bulls / Minnesota Timberwolves
PG Micheal Jordan / Jason Terry
SG Ben Gordon / Cedric Batista
SF Loul Deng / Tracy McGrady
PF Tyus Thomas / Al Jefferson
C Joakim Noah / Dario Delgado
Ace Hardware Key Match-up of the Night
Michael Jordan (15.3ppg)(3.3asstpg) vs. The Entire T'Wolves Roster
Honestly who can contain this man who has been tearing through defenders, showing them what the '96 Bulls were all about. There is not a defender that the Wolves have that will contain MJ tonight unless he lets them. Which of course, won't happen. MJ averages 15 points per game, and and along with Gordon producing 10 ppg, the Bulls are highly favored.
Things start off slow at the United Center, as Jordan dished it in to Joakim Noah in the post, who scored the opening basket over Dario Delgado. The T'Wolves, trying to dictate the game's tempo lob a risky pass upcourt, and out of sheer luck McGrady catches the pass, although he fails to capitalize in the two on one fast break.
From there things just got bad, as the Wolves forced turnover after turnover, ran the fastbreak, only to miss the layup. In the first quarter alone Cedric Batista, sophomore out of Memphis, missed 5 layups, one contested.
It seemed that the 1st quarter was the Wolves only chance at dominating the game's pace, as Jordan came out to open the second quarter slowly jogging up the court after an inbound pass. He quickly demonstrated he can do more than drive as he immediately threw up a long 3, walking back down the court before it even touched the rim (he made it). The score at 4:43: 18-6.
Looking to get the Wolves back in the game was T-Mac and Brewer, Brewer subbing in for Jefferson who, so far has produced nothing but 2 rebounds. The Bulls subbed in Larry "Sidekick Brick" Hughes for Ben Gordon who so far had 8 points and a amazing 8 assists.
At 3:59 things just got ridiculous as the Wolves still hadn't scored at 29-6. Jordan was just putting on a clinic along with Larry Hughes 3-4 from the field.
Many Wolves fans probably turned their TV/Radios off after the missed layup counter went from 3 to 8. Horrible shot selection continued as the first half ended, 31-6.
Wittman decides to start off the second with a different approach as he starts off with Rashad McCants running the point, Sebastian Telfair at the two, Corey Brewer and Jefferson as forwards and keeping Delgado in at center.
Of course he had nothing to lose, it was a huge gamble putting these guys in, but it certainly paid off. Though some say that timing paid a role in the T'Wolves run, as Jordan and Hughes, Chicago's big scorers for the night both rode the bench for most of the 3rd.
The Wolf Pack seemingly began the process of making a comeback, going on a 15-0 run before Chris Duhon reanimated the United Center with a engaging pump fake followed by a clean 3 pointer.
Next play, McCants gets flashy, crossing over a Joakim Noah (Oh wow, big accomplishment there buddy) on a uptempo play where Noah somehow got stuck defending the two guard. McCants easily capitalizes, with a smooth layup.
At 1:54 the score was 27-38, the Wolves within 11.
Jordan and Hughes check in, along with Andres Nocioni, a true sharpshooter. Feeling confident in his current roster on the court, Whittman makes no changes. Experimenting I guess you would call it, on who to put on Jordan who immediately drove to the basket with a devastating windmill finish during the Bulls next possession. Getting cocky, Jordan goes for a inbound swipe to add insult to injury, but turns up empty. Taking advantage, Telfair charges up the court throws a bullet lead pass to Brewer, who lets it go through his hands. Tough break, and heart breaking way to end the 3rd, where the score is 45-30. The Timberwolves just can't catch up.
Opening the 4th, all Timberwolves starters are out on the floor with a new attitude. Instead of a GS Warriors esque run and gun tempo, they go for a Pistons esque slow pace. By Pistons esque, I mean running the screen. Poor example, but for lack of better vocabulary, I'll stick with it. The T'Wolves set at least 8 screens within the first two minutes and it proved to be smart as they came within 7, the closest they would get all night before Jordan and Hughes demolished any hopes of a comeback.
Swatting Delgado's lay in, not fooled by the up and under was Joakim Noah, who registered 9 rebounds in the game. This defensive showcase gave the Bulls a great opportunity on the fastbreak as Jordan and Hughes exploited a two on one with McGrady who opted not to foul Jordan on an alley oop.
Jordan's second windmill for the night pretty much summed it up as the Bulls went on to record their 10th win in a walk away win, 61-49.
If you watched this game, you may have noticed that the Timberwolves weren't sure of what tempo they wanted to run the game at. With such a new and young roster on his hands, it'll be hard for Randy Whittman to craft an identity for his team. The Spurs have their Defense, Warriors are strictly run and gun, Boston is full of sharpshooters, but what about Minnesota?
We have a lot of talent this year, but it just isn't clicking. Rumor has it that if someone doesn't step up, someone will be taking a walk to the trading block.
Two weeks from now I'll be covering the entire span of what has been dubbed Rivalry week, as the T'Wolves take on the hot 76ers, Wizards, and the [current] best of the west, Lakers. Until then, be sure to check the Minnesota Sentinel online, where Doug Peters and I will give any important updates going on in the league. It's a long wait until you get more Wolves coverage, but it'll be worth it. That's the bottom line, and this is Paul Lester wishing you, and the Timberwolves a great week.
- Paul Lester
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