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Game 16: Wolves at Warriors

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Things get tougher schedule wise starting tonight when the Wolves take on the dominant Golden State Warriors.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Wolves at Warriors
9:30 pm CST
FS North

The Wolves won last night in Phoenix thanks to a dominant fourth quarter in which they held the Suns to ten points to recover from a fairly ugly second and (as usual) third quarters. The story of the game was the excellent performance of Tyus Jones, who played the final 17 minutes of the game and brought energy and steadiness to a unit that needed both desperately. The win moved them to 5-10 on the season.

And thus ends the soft part of the schedule. The Wolves are in Oakland tonight to take on the Golden State Warriors, who are merely 14-2 on the season after cruising by the Lakers last night.

What can I tell you about the Warriors? They have the top offense in the league, a sparkling 117.7 offensive rating with Steph Curry and Kevin Durant forming a devastating one-two punch, combining for over 53 points per game and brutalizing opponents. Durant has fit in spectacularly and is shooting 57.4 percent from the field, an amazing number for a player who takes five threes per game (which he is merely making at a 43 percent clip.)

They are fantastic at generating shots for their best offensive players: Klay Thompson, along with Durant and Curry are all above 25 percent usage while nobody else in their regular rotation is over 20 percent. They convert at the rim better than any team in the league, largely because opposing defenses have so much ground to cover on the perimeter.

Their defense is a mere eighth in the league, though it isn’t because they are permitting easy shots. They have the fourth best opponent eFG percentage in the league, largely because they keep teams away from the rim and don’t allow a lot of open threes. To the extent there is a weakness that the Wolves can look to exploit, it’s rebounding. The Warriors have one of the poorest defensive rebounding percentages in the NBA, and the Wolves have had some success on the offensive glass.

There really isn’t a formula for beating this team, but I suppose it would look something like this: Dominate the offensive glass, but with only two players so you don’t get killed in transition, hit your threes, and hope two of the Warriors’ three main scorers have off shooting nights. Last season, the Wolves had some success in two late season games against the Warriors by switching all the perimeter screens. That was somewhat effective, but that was when Harrison Barnes was the small forward. With Kevin Durant fully capable of taking advantage regardless of whether a big or a small switches on to him, I’m not sure how well that’s going to work this season.

Still, no doubt that will be a big part of the Wolves strategy tonight, and we’ll have to hope for some misses.

For the Wolves on offense, they just have to shoot it better. Last night they shot 40 percent, a number that is not going to beat the Warriors. After their incredibly hot start from beyond the arc, they have cooled considerably. They have also shown a disturbing propensity for settling for contested shots, especially recently. They desperately need more consistent point guard play, and need to move more without the ball. Stagnation tends to set in, especially when Andrew Wiggins or Karl-Anthony Towns catch the ball.

I don’t go into this game with many expectations; my plan is to enjoy the show. It’s a late one, but it’s also Saturday night. Hopefully it will be worth staying up for.

Expected lineups

Warriors

Stephen Curry
Klay Thompson
Kevin Durant
Draymond Green
Zaza Pachulia

Wolves

Ricky Rubio
Zach LaVine
Andrew Wiggins
Karl-Anthony Towns
Gorgui Dieng

Our blogging buddies are over at Golden State of Mind. Be excellent.