Flip Saunders tweaked his defensive strategy against the Warriors on Monday night in an effort to stop the NBA's hottest team through 20 games.
"Defensively we changed and we switched pick and rolls, I thought we played pretty well. We were able to contest shots, took away some of their penetration, eliminated a lot of their good looks and threes," Saunders said after the game.
Steph Curry thought it was weird. "Tonight they did something weird. They switched almost one through five on almost all pick and rolls and off-ball screens, so they turned it into a more iso game, which we don't necessarily want to do. You've got to adjust and figure out how you're going to attack them without (Bogut)."
But turning it into an iso game wasn't enough to hold off the streaking Warriors who ultimately used 42 points from the Splash Brothers, along with 46 bench points, to win their 13th straight game and send the Wolves to their sixth straight loss, 102-86.
Even with a better defensive effort the Wolves offense sputtered again without Rubio at the helm. The Wolves shot just 36 percent, turned it over 19 times - which included a collection of intercepted cross-court passes, errant jump passes and an inability to efficiently handle a double-team in the post - and ran stagnant sets filled with over-dribbling and isolation basketball.
Zach LaVine had a rough night filling in at point guard for Rubio and Mo Williams (back spasms). He finished with 9 points on 16 shots to go with eight assists, four rebounds, three steals, and (gulp) 6 turnovers. After the game the main criticism of LaVine was a bad habit that continually got him in trouble vs. the Warriors: the jump pass (something we previously saw in Alexey Shved).
"He had a rough night. They're a good defensive team. They've got a lot of long arms. We've been trying to work with Zach a lot on jumping up in the air. Don't jump and pass it, but that's one of his bad habits and he got caught on that probably about four times," Saunders said. "Unfortunately for us we turned the ball over way too many times. We didn't give ourselves the chance to take advantage of an opportunity."
Corey Brewer also talked about the team committing too many turnovers. "We've got to move the ball. We've got a bunch of young guys and we just all need to learn how to play basketball the right way. It's tough, you go from college and then come out here, it's different. Especially for those guys getting in passing lanes, you can't jump up and pass the ball you've got to make crisp passes."
In the end, the Wolves weren't able to capitalize on Golden State's poor shooting night because they simply aren't armed with the right weapons to do so. That's life without three key starters. Still, as Saunders discussed after the game, everybody has to be better and the team must improve in all phases.
"We're in a situation where we're struggling. We're in a situation that everybody's trying to do too much. Sometimes less is better - just to try and let the game flow a little bit. We've got guys that are totally playing out of character. I've been on the young guys a lot, too, but there are times when our vets are playing out of character. We need them to play more in character and slow us down. Young guys will make mistakes but overall everybody's got to be better. Everybody's got to be better to get our guys to play the right way."
- With five players out due to injury in this game, the Wolves have now missed 59 man-games due to injury/illness in 20 games, including 37 by projected starters.
- After last night's 102-86 victory over the Timberwolves, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr joined Al Cervi (Syracuse, 1949-50) as the only coach in NBA history to start his career with an 18-2 record after 20 games (via @Twolves_PR).
- Andrew Wiggins scored 21 points (8-19) to go with six rebounds, four assists and four turnovers in 38 minutes for the Timberwolves. Thaddeus Young added 13 points and seven rebounds. Shabazz Muhammad was limited to 18 minutes due a sore left ankle, but still led all bench scorers with 14 points. Gorgui Dieng finished with six points, 11 rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots. This was his fifth game of the season with double-digit rebounds. Corey Brewer grabbed all five of his steals in the first half.
- Andrew Bogut left the game after 2 minutes with "right knee irritation," and did not return.