Exciting rookie point guards Brandon Knight and Ricky Rubio go head to head

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Essentials

  • Teams: Detroit Pistons at Minnesota Timberwolves
  • Date: Jan. 18, 2012
  • Time: 8 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Detroit

Records

  • Pistons: 3-10
  • T-Wolves: 5-8

Probable starters

Pistons:

T-Wolves:

  • Ricky Rubio
  • Luke Ridnour
  • Wes Johnson
  • Kevin Love
  • Darko Milicic

Las Vegas projection

Spread: Pistons +8.5

Over/under: 186.5

Score: T-Wolves win, 97.5-89.5

Three things to watch

1. Ricky Rubio’s defense

Rookie point guard Ricky Rubio gained so much hype before entering the league primarily because of his flashy offense. So far, though, his defense has been impressive as well. From TrueHoop’s Henry Abbott:

But without the ball, it’s a whole ‘nother “holy cow.” BasketballValue tells us that when Rubio is on the court, the Timberwolves are giving up 97 points per 100 possessions. When he’s off, that number is 109. It’s early yet, and those adjusted plus/minus numbers are particularly vulnerable to small sample sizes. But it looks right now like Rubio is already a difference-maker defending NBA guards, and that his impact on defense rivals all that stuff he’s doing at the other end.

I’m excited to see how Knight responds, playing against probably the leading candidate for Rookie of the Year.

2. Darko’s 40-40 season

Yeah, I have to do the obligatory #LOLDarko entry. Dude is shooting 41 percent from the field and 46 percent from the free throw line this season. Can’t believe he’s still technically a starting center in the NBA.

3. Backcourt matchups

Rubio’s size could prove tough to matchup with, but the T-Wolves don’t play a particularly big back court, something that should help the smallish Pistons guards. Luke Ridnour gets about 30 minutes a game and J.J. Barea is playing about 20 minutes a night. I would assume Rodney Stuckey gets a heavy dose of guarding Rubio, so that should leave whoever is on the court with Stuckey an opportunity to create some favorable mismatches for a change hopefully.

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