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Game Preview #16: Wolves at Warriors

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The first Andrew Wiggins revenge game is upon us.

Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Golden State Warriors Jane Tyska/Digital First Media/The East Bay Times via Getty Images

Wolves (4-11) at Warriors (8-8)

9:00 pm CST

FS North (also NBA TV) / WCCO Radio

Nearly a year after playing his final game as a Minnesota Timberwolf, tonight Andrew Wiggins will look to get revenge against the team he represented for the first five and a half seasons of his NBA career.

Unfortunately for Minnesota, they will likely be without the player they acquired by shipping out Wiggins, D’Angelo Russell, who is “probably unlikely” to play this evening in San Francisco due to a thigh bruise. This comes after D-Lo rested for this past Saturday night’s victory over the New Orleans Pelicans.

Despite being without Russell, there is reason to believe this Wolves squad will be competitive tonight against Steph Curry and company. Minnesota is coming off its best performance without Karl-Anthony Towns. The Wolves out-rebounded a much bigger and more physical Pelicans team 59-55, turned the Pels over 21 times, and got to the line 37 times, connecting on 30 of them (81.1 percent).

Golden State, on the other hand, is coming into tonight’s game riding a two-game losing stream, during which they have played their worst basketball since the heart and soul of the Warriors, Draymond Green, returned from an injury that kept him out of the first few games of the season.

The Warriors scored just 108 and 104 points in their last two games, while giving up 127 and 119 points, respectively. Steve Kerr’s group has shot just 29.9 percent from 3 on 77 attempts (23 made attempts) in the past two games, with Curry accounting for 10 of the Warriors’ 25 makes from deep. Outside of Curry, the Dubs shot just 25 percent. In the two games, the Warriors got out-rebounded by a combined 34 boards.

Despite Minnesota’s lack of depth up front without Towns, the team has been somewhat respectable on the glass and has kept interior scorers from completely dominating the game without him in the lineup. Jarred Vanderbilt and Ed Davis have stepped up on both backboards and the emergence of Jaden McDaniels has helped prevent the Wolves from hemorrhaging points on the defensive end.

Conversely, the Warriors rank 27th in defensive rebound percentage and struggle inside. Without a stout rim defender, Golden State will have its hands full with Vanderbilt, Davis, and Reid on the offensive glass, and Minnesota’s wing quartet of Malik Beasley, Josh Okogie, Jarrett Culver, and Anthony Edwards should face less resistance on the drive. The Warriors are 20th in the NBA in opponent FG percentage at the rim (68.5 percent), which could make this a “get-right” game for guys like Culver and Edwards, who have struggled get to the rim and finish consistently.

Golden State figures to have a rather large advantage in the halfcourt on offense.

Given the strength and physicality of Draymond Green, as well as the length and athleticism of Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre, Jr., the Wolves will likely have to match Josh Okogie up against one of those three, rather than Steph Curry, who very well could drop north of 40 points tonight if Ricky Rubio or Malik Beasley isn’t up to the task of running around the floor with him. James Wiseman is starting to develop better chemistry with Green and Curry offensively, which could spell trouble for Naz Reid, who will likely be matched up against him for most of the night. Wiseman, the #2 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, is a very long, athletic rolling and rim-running center that can put the ball on the floor and attack the rim in hand-off situations, too. I would personally put Reid on Green and let Vanderbilt have at it with Wiseman, but we’ll see what Ryan Saunders and his staff decide to do there. If Kevon Looney starts at center, expect Reid to match up with him.

Tonight figures to be an exciting matchup. Obviously, there’s the Andrew Wiggins revenge game storyline, but the two team play a blazing fast style of play and figure to shoot a ton of 3s. Golden State is third in pace, while Minnesota is sixth, and the teams combine to shoot more than 70 3s per game. Expect a ton of scoring, especially from Steph Curry, and a competitive matchup that will be decided in the fourth quarter. The biggest matchup figures to be the entire Wolves backcourt versus Steph Curry, but I believe the better-performing wing trio (Wiggins, Oubre, and Green vs Beasley, Okogie, and Edwards) will win the game tonight. Golden State has gotten limited production from their wings in recent games, as have the Wolves, so tonight could either be a tire fire or an interesting chess match between coaches whose fan bases haven’t been happy with them so far this season.

Winner of the Day

This season, I’ve posted my favorite bet for each game of the Timberwolves’ season. Entering tonight, I am 8-6-1 (57.1 percent). For those nightly picks, and all my Wolves analysis, you can follow me on Twitter @jrborman13.

With Steph Curry, Draymond Green, and James Wiseman all heavily involved in the Warriors’ extremely efficient pick-and-roll game, I expect the Wolves to switch Jarred Vanderbilt and Josh Okogie onto Steph Curry and force the ball out of his hands as much as possible. This should provide ample spot-up 3-point opportunities for Andrew Wiggins, who is 9/16 from 3 over his last four games. And with Vanderbilt or Okogie likely matched up on different players, Wiggins favors to have the path of least resistance to putting up more points. I also expect Steve Kerr to try and scheme up ways to get Wiggins going early and often against his former team.

The Pick: Andrew Wiggins O18 Points

Injury Report

Wolves

OUT:

Juancho Hernangomez (health and safety protocols)

D’Angelo Russell (quad contusion)

Karl-Anthony Towns (health and safety protocols)

Warriors

OUT:

Marquese Chriss (broken leg)

Klay Thompson (torn achilles)

Alen Smailagic (right meniscus tear)

Projected Lineups

Wolves (projected)

Ricky Rubio

Malik Beasley

Josh Okogie

Jarred Vanderbilt

Naz Reid

Warriors (projected)

Stephen Curry

Andrew Wiggins

Kelly Oubre, Jr.

Draymond Green

Kevon Looney