July 19, 2012; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves forward Derrick Williams (7) and Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson (14) fight for a rebound during the first half of the game at the Cox Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Timberwolves (18-30) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (16-35) Preview

There has been some common sense talk surrounding the Cleveland Cavaliers (16-35) winning ways as of late, and it applies to Monday night’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves (18-30). Cleveland is beating teams that they should be beating, and also competing at a high enough level to hang with the top crews in the NBA – and on some instances coming away with a victory against the latter group of teams. Minnesota – a team that is battling severe injury problems once again –should leave Quicken Loans Arena with a loss if this holds true for the Cavs. Just like life, however, nothing is totally guaranteed. The plethora of injuries is a big factor in the Wine and Gold being favorites, as Andrei Kirilenko, Chase Budinger and Kevin Love (to name a few) won’t be suiting up tonight for the opposition:

Opponent’s Blog: Dunking with Wolves

Venue: Quicken Loans Arena – Cleveland

Tipoff: Monday, Feb. 11 at 7 p.m.

Betting Line: Cavaliers by -7

Where you can watch: Fox Sports Ohio

Where you can listen: WTAM (1100 AM), WFUN (970 AM)

The Cavaliers mailed in a pretty putrid performance against the Timberwolves in Minnesota earlier this season, but things were a lot different for both teams. Love was coming back from an injury, Kirilenko was healthy, Anderson Varejao was in the midst of a rebounding frenzy, Jeremy Pargo was starting at point guard for the injured Kyrie Irving and the makeup of the Cavs’ bench was in a totally different state. Since that game, the Cavaliers have gone 14-19 and the Timberwolves have faltered to a mark of 9-21. A team with once high playoff hopes at the beginning of the season, an energetic power forward and young talent is now sitting at 12th place in the Western Conference.

Sound familiar?

The Cavaliers didn’t have “high” playoff hopes at the onset of the season, but they did have loads of young talent, a crafty and up-and-coming point guard and an energetic rebounding hog at the heart of the team. Even without Wild Thing in the lineup, the Wine and Gold have grown as a team with their new parts and have played like a team fighting for a final spot in the playoffs. It is a grand time to be a Cleveland fan, and it’s nice to share these (winning) moments while on the home court.

Despite all the injuries, members of the 2011 NBA Draft class will in fact be matching up against each other on Monday. Point guard Ricky Rubio had missed some time to start the season, but he has gotten back into the swing of things in the month of February. During that time he has averaged 12.8 points, 9.0 assists and 1.3 steals. Irving and Rubio, two finalists for 2011 Rookie of the Year, will go up against each other as starters for the first time since they entered the league. Many thought that Rubio could have challenged Irving for ROY, but the former Duke point guard has evolved much, much quicker than the Spaniard thus far. He is leaps and bounds ahead of Rubio, as he has already gained All-Star status and league-wide recognition for his game and fourth quarter antics.

Another matchup of sophomores includes Tristan Thompson and Derrick Williams. The former Arizona product hasn’t reached the level of play that Minnesota and many others had thought he would by this time. Thompson, on the other hand, has gotten plenty of playing time and is noted as one of the best offensive rebounders in the league. His left baby hook is becoming a pivotal part of his shot arsenal, but he hasn’t yet made the transition to knocking down shots away from the rim. Thompson will be able to handle Williams, and Irving and him will have their moment tonight at the Q. It’s time to showcase to the world the best players to be taken in 2011.

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Tags: Cleveland Cavaliers Kyrie Irving Minnesota Timberwolves Tristan Thompson

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