Fresh off the opening-night, grind-it-out win over Sacramento, the Wolves travel to Toronto for Game Number 2 today. The contest will be televised on FSN North and NBA TV. If memory serves, that combination led to a dual blackout last year, and no League Pass recourse as the game was “available” on local networks. Here’s hoping that snafu has been fixed and Twin Cities fans will be able to watch. A few things to look for in this one:
- Kyle Lowry – If the season ended today, the only things keeping Lowry out of the MVP conversation would be James Harden and the Raptors .000 winning percentage. The feisty point guard is leading his team in per-game points (24.5) assists (8.0) rebounds (7.5) and steals (4.0). Remember when Kevin Garnett was the best player on the Timberwolves–with separation from 2nd-best that would rival any disparity in league history? Well, the gulf between Lowry and the Raps’ next-best isn’t that big. But he is, by far, the Raptors best player.
- High Ball Screen – It’s a common set in NBA offenses. Maybe the most common set. You’ll see a lot of it tonight. In their opener versus Indiana–the only Raps action I’ve seen–they consistently started offensive action with Lowry dribbling around a high ball screen. When he was in the game, rookie Jonas Valanciunas was often the screener. Something of note is that Jonas kept slipping the screen rather than actually setting it. It wasn’t working–not against the lumbering Roy Hibbert, who like Nikola Pekovic is a less-than-aggressive hedger of picks that far from the hoops. Since it was literally his first career game, I don’t know if this is something Jonas is being coached to do, or if it’s something Dwane Casey will look to change, instead asking the big man to set a real screen. For Wolves purposes, slipping might work better against Dante Cunningham or Lou Amundson than against Pek.
- Dual Point Guards – Don’t think the Wolves are the only team that can trot out two point guards at the same time. Toronto has two good ones in Lowry and Jose Calderon. They also have some mediocre (putting it kindly) wing players in Landry Fields and DeMar DeRozan. Expect to see both points in the game at the same time — particularly during Winning Time.
- Alan Anderson – Local interest story. Anderson hails from DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis. He’s now found a spot on the Raptors after a four-year hiatus from NBA ball. He isn’t well known, probably because he’s a fringe NBA talent without an exciting skill set, but it’s always interesting when local guys make the league. When I was a high-school senior in this state, the most-celebrated player in our class was Rick Rickert from Duluth East. Rickert didn’t pan out after leaving college two years early. Anderson has gone on to have the more-successful career, making the Final Four with Michigan State and now putting together an NBA career into his 30’s. Here is a recent profile done on Anderson, detailing his career travels and hopes for success in Toronto.