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Wolves at Warriors: Déjà Vu

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The Timberwolves are battling the Warriors at Oracle Arena tonight, where they stole an overtime win exactly 364 days ago.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Golden State Warriors Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

No better way to celebrate an exhausting home win against a playoff team than by immediately getting on a plane and flying to Oakland to take on the best team in the NBA on its home floor, right?

The Minnesota Timberwolves earned a gritty home win against Portland last night in which no starter played less than 36 minutes.

While tonight’s task for the Wolves may seem like a daunting one, let’s all remember a fond experience from almost exactly a year ago when the Wolves were in a similar situation.

The 2015-16 Timberwolves had just suffered one of their worst losses of the year — a 88-78 home nightmare to Dallas. Minnesota appeared headed for a flat out demolition at Oracle Arena to the Golden State Warriors on April 5.

Instead of a demolition, an inspired performance from the entire team resulted in an unthinkable upset that nearly spoiled Golden State’s hopes of making history. It was the signature win of the season for Minnesota and provided hope that the team could contend for a playoff spot the following season.

Fast forward 364 days, and we’re all experiencing déjà vu. Sure, this time around the Wolves won their previous game against a tough team but it took at least 36 minutes from every starter to get the job done. It’s a safe bet to assume some fatigue will set in at some point tonight for the starting unit.

Plus, Golden State is without Kevin Durant, just as it was 364 days ago. It’s all adding up!

The difference in last season’s win over the Warriors was the bench. The Warriors had no answer for Shabazz Muhammad — which is really weird to actually type as factual information — who scored 35 points on only 12 field goal attempts. Tyus Jones also provided an excellent spark off the bench, scoring seven points and recording a +19 in 19 minutes of action.

Just under a month ago when the Wolves defeated the Warriors at Target Center, Muhammad and Nemanja Bjelica combined for 21 points and 19 rebounds off the bench.

Do the Wolves still have the ammo on the bench to replicate that performance tonight? I feel inclined to say no, but who knows? Maybe lightning will strike twice for Muhammad another 30-point performance is in store. After all, that might be what it takes.

Golden State enters tonight’s contest on an 11-game winning streak as it tries to secure the top spot in the Western Conference. After suffering through a bit of a slump in the first half of March, Stephen Curry has regained his dominant form during the 11-game streak.

However, Curry has had problems shooting efficiently against the Wolves in recent meetings. In the teams’ last meeting at Target Center, Curry only converted on 10 of 27 field goal attempts, including just one of eight from beyond the arc. In last year’s meeting at Oracle, Curry shot 7-for-25 from the field and 4-for-14 from three-point range.

Keeping Curry contained is obviously a major key for the Wolves tonight. But Minnesota has no chance in the first place if its bench can’t, at the very least, keep up with the never-ending depth of the Warriors.

Expected Starting Lineups

Timberwolves

PG - Ricky Rubio

SG - Brandon Rush

SF - Andrew Wiggins

PF - Gorgui Dieng

C - Karl-Anthony Towns

INJURIES: Zach LaVine (knee), Nemanja Bjelica (foot) and Nikola Pekovic (Achilles) are all OUT.

Warriors

PG - Stephen Curry

SG - Klay Thompson

SF - Patrick McCaw

PF - Draymond Green

C - Zaza Pachulia

INJURIES: Kevin Durant (knee) is OUT. Kevon Looney (hip) is QUESTIONABLE.

Four Factors

As we always do in game previews, let’s take a look at how the Wolves and Warriors match up using the Four Factors. Reminder, the Four Factors are effective field goal percentage (eFG%), turnover percentage (TOV%), offensive rebounding percentage (ORB%), and free throw rate (FTR).

Factor / Wolves / Warriors

eFG% / 51.1% / 56.3%*

TOV% / 14.4 / 14.5

ORB% / 27.3% / 22.7%

FTR / .288 / .261

(*) denotes top-ranked statistic in NBA.

Well, this is weird; the Wolves have an advantage in three of the four factors. It just so happens that Golden State leads the NBA in the statistic in which it has the edge over Minnesota.

Prediction

I can’t logically pick the Wolves to win this game. It’s on the road on the back end of the back-to-back against the best team in the NBA. Each of the starters played 36 minutes just last night and the bench production is not inspiring confidence at this point.

I’m rolling with the Dubs, because I’m a logical person.

Warriors 122, Wolves 108