The Minnesota Timberwolves look to get back on track after two straight losses when they begin a four-game homestand against the struggling Orlando Magic on Wednesday night. The Timberwolves had won eight of 10 to take over sole possession of first place in the Northwest Division, but dropped a three-point decision to Detroit on Sunday at home before suffering a 118-102 defeat at Charlotte one day later.
“We just didn’t do what we need to do, on both ends. It’s part of it, man,” Minnesota guard Jimmy Butler told the Star Tribune after Monday’s loss. “To lose the way we lost, what can you say? These games come quick in this league.” Butler has picked up his production the last three games, averaging 20.3 points, and hopes to continue that trend while helping to hand the Magic their sixth consecutive loss. Orlando began the season as one of NBA’s best surprises by winning six of its first eight games, but has dropped seven of nine since after Monday’s 105-97 setback against Indiana and starts a four-game trip Wednesday. “I thought the effort was good,” Magic guard Evan Fournier told the Orlando Sentinel Monday. “Honestly, guys, I don’t know what to tell you. We just look like a totally different team. It’s (darn) frustrating, man. There’s not much to say.”
TV: 8 p.m. ET, FSN Florida, FSN North Plus (Minnesota)
ABOUT THE MAGIC (8-9): Orlando is allowing 112.8 points during the losing streak while the offense has been stagnant at key times and the Magic turned the ball over 22 times against Indiana. “We’re trying,” Magic coach Frank Vogel told reporters. “Nobody’s happy with how we’re playing, and we know we’ve got to dig ourselves out of a little bit of a rut here.” Center Nikola Vucevic recorded 25 points against the Pacers to raise his scoring season average to 17.3 - third on the team behind Fournier (19.0) and forward Aaron Gordon (17.5).
ABOUT THE TIMBERWOLVES (10-7): Minnesota’s top two scorers have cooled off a bit of late as center Karl-Anthony Towns (20.6) is averaging 16.3 points over the past three games and Andrew Wiggins (18.8) has produced 15.2 the last five. Veteran reserve Jamal Crawford picked up some of the slack Monday with a season-high 19 points, but starting forward Taj Gibson was held to a season-low one on 0-for-4 shooting. Point guard Jeff Teague scored at least 15 points in four of the last five contests, but went 8-for-25 from the field over the last two.
1. Orlando F Jonathan Isaac (ankle) is questionable after missing the last four games.
2. The Timberwolves are last in the league in field goal percentage defense (48.5).
3. Minnesota won both meetings last season after the Magic took the previous five matchups.
PREDICTION: Timberwolves 106, Magic 100