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Game 22 Preview: SA @ Minnesota Timberwolves

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Tonight's starting lineups:

SA (17-4, 7-3 away)
PG The French Layup Machine
SG Michael Finley
SF Bruce Bowen
PF Tim Duncan
C Rasho Nesterovic

MIN (12-8, 7-3 home)
PG Marco Jaric
"S"G Trenton Hassell
SF Wally Szczerbiak
PF KG
C Michael Olowokandi

Ahh, we finally get the first matchup of the season between KG and TD. I've written approximately 314159 words on the subject, so what's a few more.

Everyone knows that MIN missed the playoffs last year (by one game). They finished 44-38 with a point differential of +1.5 (which was better than all but 2 teams in the Eastern Conference). There was squabbling and cage-rattling from Cassell and Sprewell and of course the infamous and priceless "I have to feed my family" quote. That dynamic duo was replaced by Marco Jaric and some combination of Richie Frahm and Rashad McCants.

Granted, it's still relatively early in the season, but MIN sure looks better this year. They're atop their division with a point differential of +4.1 good for fifth in the entire league. Hmm. Why the change? Marco Jaric can't be that good can he?

Of course not. But, unlike last year's version of Sam Cassell, he can play ~70% of your team's minutes. Sam accounted for only 39%. He also has the reputation of being a plus defender (something Sam cannot claim) and has an extra 4" in height, allowing him to play some 2. In fact, if you look at 82games.com player pairs you can find that Marco has played 190 minutes of SG with either Carter or Hudson. That amounts to 9.5 MPG, or 31% of Sprewell's minutes from last year.

Ooh! Some more interesting stuff from 82games.com! Last year MIN's PG+SG had a combined PER+/- of -5. This year the same value is +1.9. That's a BIG swing. Opponent PG PER is down 6.1! Marco Jaric for defensive player of the year!

But seriously folks. Let's use some common sense. Latrell Sprewell is a whiny trollop who cannot even get a contract offer over the vet minimum (except from ATL, but they don't count). Sam Cassell is just a whiny trollop. They leave and the team gets better. Do the math.

Tonight's line: SA -3
Tonight's total: 174
My pick: MIN
Matty da Blade's plays: SA | OVER
The Spurs are 10-11 this year ATS. I am 7-13. Da Blade is 11-8-1 ATS | 6-6 TOT.