Timberwolves-Thunder preview: Who's the best team in the West?


at Oklahoma City Thunder, Paycom Center, 7 p.m. Monday

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Pregame reading: How reading transformed the career of Timberwolves guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker.

Gavin Dorsey's preview:

Opening bell: The Timberwolves (32-14) have dropped out of the Western Conference's top spot for the first time in two months after fourth-quarter collapses against Oklahoma City, Charlotte and San Antonio over the last 10 days. They will get another shot at the now-West-leading Thunder in Oklahoma City on Monday night, attempting to split the season series and move ahead of OKC. The Thunder (32-14) lead the season series 2-1 and thus are atop the conference.

Watch him: The Wolves faced NBA Rookie of the Year favorite Victor Wembanyama in Saturday night's loss at San Antonio, and on Monday, they will go up against his biggest competition for the award. Chet Holmgren (Minnehaha Academy) ranks third on Oklahoma City with 17.2 points per game and leads the team defensively, averaging 7.4 rebounds and 2.6 blocks. Holmgren is the perfect complement to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and could cause problems for a Wolves defense that has struggled lately.

Injuries: The Thunder's Ousmane Dieng (G League) and Tre Mann (not with team) did not play in Sunday's 120-104 loss at Detroit. Meanwhile, Wolves guard Mike Conley is listed as day-to-day, having missed three of the last four games because of hamstring soreness.

Forecast: The Wolves and Thunder are atop the West, but they've lost their most recent games to two cellar-dwellers, the Spurs and the Pistons, respectfully. Both teams will be searching for a bounce-back victory, but the Wolves have been much less consistent of late, which could make the difference. Oklahoma City will keep it close, and given the Wolves' late-game struggles, expect the Thunder to find a way to pull ahead late.

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