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Timberwolves at Warriors
Saturday, November 26rd, 2016 at 9:30 p.m. at Oracle Arena
Tonight’s the night. The Minnesota Timberwolves will suit up against the two-time Western Conference champions Golden State Warriors in a rematch of April’s overtime barn burner. Although Golden State may have started off a little rocky in comparison to their 24 game win streak during the previous season (the Warriors lost two of their first six), the team is now firing from all cylinders, leading the NBA in wins, points, and offensive rating. Minnesota has played seven games against teams that have finished above 0.500 during the previous season and sit 1-6. This game is the second part in a back-to-back following a fourth quarter surge against the Phoenix Suns.
PG: Ricky Rubio #9
SG: Zach LaVine #8
SF: Andrew Wiggins #22
PF: Gorgui Dieng #5
C: Karl-Anthony Towns #32
PG: Steph Curry #30
SG: Klay Thompson #11
SF: Kevin Durant #35
PF: Draymond Green #23
C: Zaza Pachulia #27
Nikola Pekovic – out/season (recurring foot pain)
Ian Clark – day-to-day (throat), Draymond Green – day-to-day (ankle)
In terms of facing off against one of the greatest teams in NBA history, the Timberwolves did better than most, and cashed in too not-half-bad performances before ripping off an exciting overtime win in the waning days of the 15-16 season.
It’s hard to cite anything they did in their first meeting as “wrong” per se. The Wolves did what they needed to do well, out rebounding the Warriors 47-34 and restricting Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, and Andre Iguodala to a combined 6-19 from 3. Like most games involving the Golden State Warriors last year, however, it just didn’t matter in the end. The Warriors still shot better than 50-40-90 as a team, and Steph Curry was absolutely unguardable. He finished the night with 46 points. The game was essentially over after the Wolves found themselves swallowed by a first quarter deficit they couldn’t climb their way out of, down 40-27 before the start of the second. They would go on to lose the game 129-116.
The second contest was a slightly different story. The Wolves hung tough over the course of the first three quarters, tying the game at 89-89 going into the home stretch. Curry struggled from beyond the arc, going 2-9, while Harrison Barnes seemed to quietly drift from one end of the floor to the other, scoring only six points over his 31 minutes. Wiggins had an impressive 25-5-4 line to go along with Towns’ 24-11-2, but it wasn’t enough to stop the likes of Draymond Green, who bullied his way under the basket to 24 points with 10-13 shooting. Klay Thompson shot only 5-14 but was a perfect 5-5 from the 3 point line. The Warriors won a heart-breaker 109-104.
Minnesota set everything straight over the course of the final game. Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns employed some of the best defense of their young careers, switching like mad on the Warriors death lineup. Steph Curry struggled from 3, shooting 4-14, while Green committed a game-high six turnovers. Wiggins scored 32 points to go along with six steals, while Shabazz Muhammed erupted from the bench, scoring 35 points while going 15-17 from the free throw line. The Timberwolves operated in a welcome reverse of their usual poor tendencies, looking sluggish out of the gate, before finishing with tough defense and beautiful shooting from inside the paint. Wiggins would tie the game up with 20 seconds left in the fourth before the Wolves would go on to win it in overtime, 124-117.
This will be the first time the Timberwolves will have to face the new-look Warriors with off season acquisition Kevin Durant. Previously, players like Zach Lavine and Shabazz Muhammed could hide themselves on the defensive end by guarding the more reserved Harrison Barnes, but the Warriors offense is too dangerous on the perimeter for that too be a reliable option.
It will be interesting to see how Thibs handles the lineups tonight. With Rubio’s poor shooting, Curry will more than likely play off the Minnesota PG for much of the night on the defensive end. Wiggins and Lavine will need to heat up from beyond the arc if they want any chance of spreading the floor.
Karl-Anthony Towns is the pedigree for the modern center on offense and defense, and was an excellent foil for the Warriors lineup of death during the previous season. His ability to switch on to Curry and contain him in the pick and roll will be key if the Wolves want the slightest glimmer of hope in winning this one.
TV: Fox Sports North – Dave Benz (play-by- play), Jim Peterson (analyst)
Radio: 830 WCCO-AM – Alan Horton (play-by- play)
(All stats found on NBA.com and basketball-reference.com)