The Minnesota Timberwolves arrive in Washington today sporting the worst record in the NBA at 3-15. They’re 23rd in the league in scoring (93.27 points per game) and are second-last in scoring differential (-8.33). The T-Wolves are young, inexperienced and suffering from a serious case of KG withdrawal. But in spite of their status as the only team left with fewer than five wins, Minnesota can still claim one positive distinction the Wizards cannot. They beat the Suns.
Just one night after Phoenix (16-6) trounced the Wiz by 15 at Verizon Center, Minnesota shocked the league’s hottest team with a 100-93 win at home. Behind a monstrous 32-point, 20-rebound performance from Celtics send-off Al Jefferson, the Wolves held the NBA’s highest scoring offense below the century mark for just the fourth time this season. Jefferson, who was shipped to Kevin McHale’s sorry excuse for a franchise (along with Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair, Ryan Gomes, Theo Ratliff and a bubbling pot of chowdah) in exchange for Kevin Garnett before the season, became the only other player in franchise history - the former MVP being the other – to notch a 30-20 game.
Meanwhile, the Wiz are coming off a solid 104-89 win against the Nets on Saturday night. Tuesday’s game is the last in a season-long five game home-stretch for Washington. They’ve gone 3-1 with the lone loss coming on Friday to Phoenix.
Brendan Haywood v. Jefferson – No, Haywood is not going to shutdown the Wolves leading scorer. Yes, Jefferson, in all likelihood, will reach his 20-point season average. And yes, he’ll probably tally his 14th double-double of the year. But Haywood, along with teammates Antawn Jamison and Andray Blatche, can make a difference on the boards. Rebounding has been a tell-tale sign of the Wizards success all season. When they win the battle of the boards, they come out on top. When they don’t, they lose. Both teams rely heavily on jump-shooting, which means lots of long rebounds. If Brendan and the bigs can pull down the lion’s share, Washington should win this one easily.
The Wizards traveled to Minnesota on November 16 and won 105-89 with 29 points from Caron Butler and 27 from Gilbert Arenas. They shot 52 percent from the field, out-rebounded the Wolves by four and tallied 20 assists. Washington used a 34-point fourth quarter to put the game away as the Wiz won for the first time in eight trips to the Twin Cities.
- Forward Darius Songaila left Sunday’s game with a mild left ankle sprain. In 15 minutes before leaving the court, Songaila chipped in 11 big points and six boards. He did not practice Monday and will be a game-time decision. Songaila is averaging 5.9 points and 3.3 boards in 19 minutes per game.
- With Songaila out, the Wizards injury-depleted roster could not even field a full five-on-five practice Monday. Instead of running full court scrimmages, Eddie Jordan has his team run 3-on-3-on-3 drills. Afterwards, the Wizards held a five-on-four shooting contest in which “Big Money” (Butler, Jamison, Haywood and Antonio Daniels) took on “Little Money” (the rest of the five healthy bodies). For more on why the Wiz are still the most entertaining group of guys – even without the goofiest of them all (Arenas) – check out Dan Steinberg’s D.C. Sports Bog from today.
- Veteran role player Roger Mason Jr. has been on a tear of late. The UVA product is averaging 12.6 (repeating of course) points in his last three on 15-of-29 shooting. Mason, who typically lurks around the perimeter for a chance to get off his long-range jumper, scored nine points against the Nets on Sunday in 20 minutes of action. He’s averaging 4.6 points in 12.6 minutes per game for the season.
The Wolves have five players averaging double figures and eight averaging at least eight points per game. But they still don’t have near enough offensive firepower to match Butler and Jamison – both averaging more than 21 points per game. Minnesota can light it up from the perimeter with Rashad McCants, Marko Jaric and the increasingly wide Antoine Walker, but Washington’s up-tempo attack will again give them fits. Wizards take it 106-92.
-- The Tar Heel