The Wolves V Thunder play out this weeks Game of the Week[caption id="attachment_12524" align="aligncenter" width="628"] Photo Credit: Genevieve Ross / AP[/caption] This weeks game of the week is between two of the most intriguing teams in the Western Conference. Oklahoma City and Minnesota are at different stages in their teams development but both are targeting the same goal.
GAME TIME & VIEWING OPTIONS:Time & Date: Friday, December 21, 2012 11:00am AEDT Location: Target Center, Minneapolis. Viewing Info: NBA League Pass (see our TV Guide for full info)
FORM HEADING IN:Minnesota: 12-9 Minnesota have had a steady start to their season. They were stricken by injury to start off the season, with their two stars, Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio sidelined with serious injuries. The Wolves went through a major form slump starting in the middle of November, losing 5 in a row. Since Love has returned they look like a completely different team. Now that Rubio has returned as well, things are starting to look up for the franchise that hasn't played in the playoffs since 2004. They are currently on a 4 game winning streak after defeating the Mavericks in OT. The Wolves will travel to Orlando and Miami before heading home to play this match. Oklahoma City: 19-4 Oklahoma have come out all guns blazing in their search to go one better than last year. They have been the most consistent team in the NBA and are currently on a whopping 10 game winning streak. In that streak they have defeated Philadelphia, Utah, Brooklyn and the L.A Lakers, just to name a few. Their last loss came against the Celtics in Boston, way back on the 24th of November. The Thunder have two tough matches against San Antonio and Atlanta to play before this match on Sunday.
MATCH UP OF THE NIGHT:Every team that wants to make a run in the playoffs needs a leader. Both of these teams have the leader they need, Minnesota has Kevin Love, Oklahoma City has Kevin Durant. These two players will be matched up against each other for the majority of the game, which will be a pleasure for fans of basketball to watch. There are many great scorers in the league that play at small forward, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony are two prime examples. None are better than Kevin Durant. He can score at will against nearly any opponent. Durant may be averaging the least amount of points since the 2008-09 season but he averaging the most assists, rebounds, steals and blocks of his career. This is proving that he isn't just the one dimensional offensive power that many believed he was. Kevin Love has been phenomenal since returning from injury. In his first match back against Denver he poured in 34 points and pulled down 14 rebounds. This season Love has reached double figure rebounds in every match bar one. Love has been pulling down rebounds on both ends of the court. Of his almost 14 rebounds per game, 4 of those are on the offensive glass. This is crucial for the Timberwolves to create second chance baskets and deflate the oppositions confidence. This match up will be a very even contest. Although the two players are very different in the way they go about their game, both are just as important as each other for their respective team. Love will really need to use his body size to and force Durant to really work hard for rebounds.
SURPRISE PACKET:Alexy Shved is in his first season in the NBA and has been one of the biggest surprise packets. The Russian born guard has really found his place on this Timberwolves team. Shved has been coming off the bench for the majority of the season, but in the last couple of games he has been rewarded for his good form and has earned the starting position at the shooting guard. Shved has been a great pick and roll partner for Kevin Love. He is averaging an impressive 11 points, 4 assists and 2 rebounds.
BENCH BATTLE:It is well known that Oklahoma City traded their star bench player, James Harden, in the off season, but they did gain Kevin Martin in return. Martin has been great since his move from Houston. In matches when Durant and Westbrook have been slightly off, Martin has stepped up and scored when needed. Martin may not be starting but he is playing more minutes than starting shooting guard Thabo Sefolosha. Martin is averaging the third most points on the team with 16. Derrick Williams has had a tough start to his NBA career. Last season as a rookie he wasn't able find much game time because he plays the same position as Kevin Love. Earlier in the season when Love was out injured Williams started. In some games he showed flashes of the player Minnesota hoped he would be when they drafted him with the number 2 pick in the 2011 draft. His best game of the year came against Golden State where he recorded 23 points, 7 rebounds and 4 blocks. Obviously since Love has returned to the line up Williams' minutes have dropped, and thus so has his production. Nick Collison at 32 years of age, is the oldest player on the Thunder roster. Collison has never been a star for the Thunder but he is always willing to back up Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka when they need help or rest. His production had been declining in recent years but this season he has stepped up and is averaging his most points since the 2008-09 season with 6 per game. Collison's rebounds have dropped off this season. He is only averaging 4 per game, the lowest of his career. J.J Barea has been great for the Timberwolves since crossing from the Mavericks in the 2011 off season. Barea is one of the smallest players in the league, standing at only 183 cm tall. What he loses in height, he makes up for in aggression and smarts. Barea has had a great December, scoring in double digits in all 6 games. He is averaging 10 points, almost 5 assists and 3.5 rebounds.
PREDICTED STARTING LINES UPS:Minnesota Timberwolves:
- Point guard: Luke Ridnour*
- Shooting guard: Alex Shved
- Small forward: Kevin Love
- Power forward: Andre Kirilenko
- Centre: Nikola Pekovic
- Point guard: Russell Westbrook
- Shooting guard: Thabo Sefolosha
- Small forward: Kevin Durant
- Power forward: Serge Ibaka
- Centre: Kendrick Perkins