If there is one team in the NBA that has mirrored the Sixers' Andrew Bynum-less experience thus far, you'd pick the Bulls first. But second would probably be the Timberwolves, who missed Kevin Love for nine games and still are without point guard-slash-former member of Menudo, Ricky Rubio. And their city is depressed about no hockey too!
I like the Timberwolves. Even with the horrible call that allowed Kevin Love to make two free throws and defeat the Sixers 92-91 in the team's only meeting last year, it was only one regular season game. They have a lot going for them when it comes to appealing to casual NBA fans, too. Rick Adelman always coaches fun teams, Rubio and his glorious floppy hair is fantastic to watch, and how can you not like Kevin Love?
These two teams have a few major similarities and a few major differences, which I'll stagger for your reading pleasure:
Early Injuries: With Rubio and Love out early in the year, the Wolves have had to battle without a full deck, similar to the Sixers. In addition to Rubio, Andrei Kirilenko will miss tonight's game with back spasms. That's good news for Sixer wings like Evan Turner and Jason Richardson, because Kirilenko carried over his excellent Olympic play and has been very good for Minnesota.
Three-point shooting: The fact that the Wolves are 24th in the offense is a minor miracle. I know that the Sixers have had times in recent history where their three-point shooting was less than stellar, but when I say the Timberwolves can't shoot threes, I'm talking Harry Dunne-level shooting.The Sixers meanwhile, have shot the three well this year, sixth in the NBA at 38 percent.
Second Pick Woes: The Wolves' recent second overall pick, Derrick Williams, is struggling, a feeling Sixer fans know all too well. Most troubling in my opinion is Williams' difficulty shooting the ball, especially for a guy who was amazingly efficient is college. On the flip side, Evan Turner has turned it around and shot the ball very well recently, so all isn't lost for Williams.
Big Man Mismatch: Perusing the recent local coverage of the 76ers lately, there have been a lot of "The Sixers Need More From Spencer Hawes!" articles. While I agree with the sentiment, can we all just call the situation what it's really been, "Spencer Hawes Has Been Really, Really, Really Bad"? We've talked about the Sixer frontcourt struggles ad nauseam, but I don't like tonight's match-up one bit. Nikola Pekovic is physical and good. Dante Cunningham, he of Villanova Final Four fame, is physical and decent. Kevin Love is Kevin Love. The frontcourt can't no-show tonight if the Sixers want to win.
Bigger Guards: I know that I've beaten this into the ground, but looking at the diminutive combo Luke Ridnour and JJ Barea, the Sixers have another golden opportunity to post one of their bigger guards as long as they don't let "The Lord of The Flop" wreak havoc on them. Doubt it will happen, but I could see Jrue Holiday having a ton of success against these guys on the block if the Sixers decided to attack that way.
The tip is at 7:00. Go check out Canis Hoopus for some excellent Wolves coverage.