FS North, ESPN
Wednesday’s 50-point bonanza from Derrick Rose was one of the most memorable nights in the annals of Minnesota Timberwolves basketball. Tonight, the hangover could be real, as they face the hardest test the league has to offer: the Golden State Warriors.
After a one-game hiatus with the paltry excuse of ‘general soreness’, Jimmy Butler is set to play tonight, Tyus Jones is also available after missing the Utah tilt with a foot injury. Unfortunately, Jeff Teague’s left knee contusion will keep him sidelined for another game.
There is a large contingent of fans who would like to see Jones, the advanced stats legend that he is, start the game as the lead guard. However, it seems unlikely that coach Tom Thibodeau will bench Rose after his career-night.
The game marks the toughest start to a five-game road trip imaginable, and the Warriors are in some fantastic form. They have dropped just one game thus far, a hot start that has included six straight wins coming into tonight.
Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are obviously major threats in their own unique and dangerous ways, but it is Stephen Curry that is striking the most fear into opposing teams at the moment. He is averaging 33 points, 5 rebounds and 5.9 assists, shooting a blistering 54.9 percent from the field and 52.9 percent from beyond the arc (on 11.6 attempts per game!). The two-time MVP is looking ridiculously good right now, and he could have another big night if the Timberwolves aren’t careful.
Golden State lead the league in field goal percentage, 3-point percentage, offensive rating and overall net rating, so it is imperative that Minnesota step up their defensive effort if they want to compete. The Wolves sit 26th in defensive rating, and have given up 120 points or more in their last three outings. Minnesota has always been able to compete with teams on the offensive end, but they are much more lackadaisical on the other end of the floor.
With both Butler and Andrew Wiggins available tonight, it will be super interesting to see what happens with rookie Josh Okogie. The 20-year-old has been a difference maker on the defensive end of the floor, which the Wolves badly need. His savvy defense was a huge reason the Wolves were able to hold onto a win on Wednesday:
Wondering why myself and other Wolves tweeters are fawning over Josh Okogie so much? Check out this defensive highlight reel from last night.— Jake Paynting (@jakepaynting) November 1, 2018
He fights through picks and disrupts Mitchell, Rubio and the rest of the Jazz all game. So fun to watch: pic.twitter.com/WmBNcagGGX
The best way to expose the Warriors is to force turnovers on one end and keep the mistakes down on the other. Luckily, the Warriors are the ninth worst team in the league when it comes to turning it over, while the Wolves are tied for the eighth best squad turnover-wise, per NBA Stats.
If the Wolves show up with the same sort of energy they displayed against the Jazz, they could have a sneaky chance to take down the champs. As we know though, Minnesota’s effort has waxed and waned this season, take a look at the Bucks blowout if you need a painful reminder.
Let’s hope we see the former tonight.
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