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Minnesota Timberwolves @ Orlando Magic

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The Orlando Magic will have to regroup after a heartbreaking loss in Atlanta against the Hawks on Wednesday night. Returning home and squaring off with one of the worst teams in basketball on Friday night should make that task a little easier than it intially sounded. The Magic, who lost for just the second time in 13 games will play host to the Minnesota Timberwolves, who have lost 20 of their last 21 games, including 14 in a row. Their most recent loss came at the hands of the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday night.

These two teams met on New Year’s day and the Timberwolves gave the Magic everything they could handle before the Magic pulled away for a 106-94 victory.

NBA Stats

The Timberwolves are the worst team in the Western Conference. They come into the game with a record of 14-58 and are an abysmal 5-32 on the road. The Magic enter the game with a record of 50-22 and have been excellent at home, posting a 28-7 record at Amway Arena.

Tip-off from the Am is scheduled for 7:00 pm EST and the game will be shown locally by Sun Sports. As always, if you can’t watch the game, you can listen to it locally on WDBO AM 580 and in Spanish on WONQ AM 1030.

The Line: Orlando – 15

Starters:

Minnesota Timberwolves

Darko Milicic
Al Jefferson
Ryan Gomes
Corey Brewer
Jonny Flynn

Orlando Magic

Dwight Howard
Rashard Lewis
Matt Barnes
Vince Carter
Jameer Nelson

Back on New Year’s Day, Minnesota gave Orlando a very tough game. The Timberwolves kept the game close after falling behind 8-0 in the first quarter, even taking a 77-75 lead on a Wayne Ellington three-pointer with just over 10 minutes to play, but then the Magic took over. Orlando dominated the rest of the game and came away with a 106-94 victory.

Vince Carter and Dwight Howard were shut down offensively, scoring a combined 21 points on 7-of-20 shooting. Rashard Lewis scored 21 points in 27 minutes and Ryan Anderson, who has fallen out of the rotation, provided a few huge three-pointers and scored 16 points off of the bench.

Minnesota’s defensive has been awful. They allow 107.6 points per game and rank 28th in defensive rating (111.2), which is why the Magic’s two leading scorers had off nights against the T’Wolves and they were still able to score 104 points.

Minnesota’s offense has been just as bad. They score just 98.0 points per game are 29th in offensive rating (101.3). Minnesota, like several other teams in the NBA, benifited from a draft deep in point guards. A big deal was made about the Timberwolves’ selection of Spain’s Ricky Rubio but rookie Jonny Flynn has had a good rookie season. He’s been overshadowed by the likes of Sacramento’s Tyreke Evans and Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings, but Flynn is averaging 13.4 points and 4.4 assists per game.

Flynn is the type of player that really bothers the Magic’s defense and he proved that when he scored 23 points on New Year’s Day. Orlando, who not only has trouble with quick point guards, but at times struggles to defend the perimeter, let Flynn go 5-of-7 from beyond the arc.

Big man Al Jefferson, who has had an excellent career statistically, is Minnesota’s leading scorer (17.4 per game) and second leader rebounder (9.3 per game).

Defensively, Jefferson knows he will have his hands full with Dwight Howard.

"“To me, when Dwight Howard’s on the floor, it’s a plus for his team,” Jefferson said after the workout ended. “I don’t think you can stop Dwight Howard. I think you can try to maintain him, try to keep him from just taking over the ballgame. We did a good job of maintaining him, but he’s such a great player he made his teammates around him better, and that’s why other guys got open shots and nailed them.”"

Josh Robbins has more on that story here.

Kevin Love, who scores 14.4 points per game, is one of the league’s best pound-for-pound rebounders. Love’s rebounding rate is 20.9%. To put that into perspective, Dwight Howard’s reboudning percentage this season is 21.9%.

Keep an eye on former Florida Gator Corey Brewer – he always seems to be good for one highlight play.

Former Magic big man and notable bust Darko Milicic has been playing much better as Minnesota’s starting Center. He even posted a double-double, 16 points and 12 rebounds, against the Los Angeles Lakers last week.

Orlando does have a far superior team and if they come to play, should have absolutely no problem getting back to their winning ways.

(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger and a contributor at NFL Mocks and Sir Charles In Charge. Subscribe to his RSS feed, add him on Twitter to follow him daily and you can get the HTD app here).