- Who: Minnesota Timberwolves (10-9) vs Golden State Warriors (10-10)
- When: 2:30 PM CST
- TV: Bally Sports North Extra (Michael Grady, Jim Petersen and Katie Storm)
- Radio: 830 WCCO-AM
- Line: Wolves +1.5 | Total: 236.5 (courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook)
What to Watch For
Warriors Road Woes
Recently, the Warriors have been surging as they look to regain their championship form of last season. After losing five in a row, the Warriors have gone 7-3 in their last ten games, including a two-game winning streak. While this is a matchup of two erratically performing teams, the Warriors have been an entirely different team on the road. Their record of 10-10 is largely inflated by their 9-1 home record and torn down by their 1-9 away record. Conversely, the Timberwolves have been consistently frustrating regardless of where they play, with a record of 5-5 at home and 5-4 away.
Wide disparities in performance like this are unusual for a veteran team, let alone reigning champions. The narrative all season has been that this is a symptom of the Warriors trying to navigate two timelines and the woes of their young players on the road. There is certainly some validity to this, but they aren’t the only scapegoats, especially now that most have been designated to the G-League or deeper bench roles.
On the road, there isn’t a single Warriors player who has an average plus-minus or net rating that is positive. Steph Curry has been putting up historically great numbers regardless of the arena he’s in, but the rest of his veteran peers haven’t carried their weight. On the road, Andrew Wiggins is scoring five few points than at home, shooting 7% lower from the floor, and recording nearly three fewer rebounds. At home, the Warriors have a net rating of 26.4 with Kevon Looney on the floor, but this plummets to -7.3 on the road. Jordan Poole has never been a defensive stalwart, but at home, the Warriors defensive rating with Poole on the floor is 105.3 and skyrockets to 119.5 on the road. Similarly, Draymond Green looks like his typical defensive player of the year self at home where the Warriors have a defensive rating of 99.8 when he’s on the floor but 121.4 on the road.
The Warriors main issues on the road has been consistent effort. They haven’t executed defensively, which puts them in early holes and affects their offensive efficiency. With an early afternoon game, which is even earlier for the Warriors internal body clock, the Timberwolves have a good chance to pounce on the Warriors early. The Timberwolves have had their own struggles with day games this season, but the opportunity is there for them to extend their lead over the Warriors in the standings.
Win The Bench Minutes
Despite losing much of their depth and role players this offseason, the Timberwolves have a bench that is performing well. For the sake of measuring the bench’s impact, I looked at the Timberwolves’ two most used lineups that contain only two or fewer starters. The first most used lineup is Jordan McLaughlin, Jaylen Nowell, Anthony Edwards, Taurean Prince, and Naz Reid. This lineup has recorded 31 possessions and has a net rating of 64.3, per Cleaning the Glass. The second most used lineup, 30 possessions, contains McLaughlin, Nowell, Jaden McDaniels, Prince, and Karl-Anthony Towns, and has a net rating of 30. Even though the Timberwolves are missing significant contributors from last season, the main bench pieces are contributing at a high level.
Why does this matter against the Warriors? Mainly, because they are awful when Curry isn’t on the floor. Their net rating of -18.8 when Curry is off the floor ranks in the 2nd percentile of all lineups. They struggle to generate offense as their offensive rating of 97.1 ranks in the 1st percentile, and they are a below average defensive team as their defensive rating of 115.9 ranks in the 22nd percentile.
Using the same lineup criteria as we did above with the Timberwolves, the Warriors most used “bench” lineup consists of Poole, Donte DiVincenzo, Wiggins, Anthony Lamb, and Looney, which has played 43 possessions with a net rating of -35.6. Their second most used “bench” lineup, 40 possessions, consists of Poole, Wiggins, Ty Jerome, JaMychal Green, and Looney, which has recorded a net rating of 24.8.
When Curry isn’t on the floor, it is a total crapshoot of what Warriors team we’ll see. They tend to fall away from their exquisite movement and execution, and instead rely on individual outbursts and turnovers. When Curry exits the game, the Timberwolves must continue to attack and not get complacent regardless of who is on the floor for them.
Limit Their “Big 3”
Despite the Warriors’ season long inconsistencies, their “big 3” of Curry, Thompson, and Wiggins have been scorching hot in their last five games. Curry is averaging 28 points, 9.5 assists, 5.8 rebounds, and 1.8 steals while shooting 51.2% from the floor on 20.5 attempts and 44% from three on 12.5 attempts. Thompson is averaging 24.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.5 assists while shooting 52.3% from the floor on 16.3 attempts and 54.8% from three on 10.5 attempts. Wiggins is averaging 23.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 2.0 steals while shooting 52.2% from the floor on 17.3 attempts and 51.4% from three on 8.8 attempts.
The Timberwolves have struggled to consistently contain point guards as we’ve already seen players like Darius Garland, Ja Morant, and Devin Booker have monster games. The odds are high that Curry is about to join that group given his individual absurdity this season combined with the Timberwolves’ defensive woes. Curry is more than capable of winning a game on his own, but the Timberwolves need to ensure that that is the only way the Warriors can win this game. If they allow Thompson, Wiggins, or Poole to get hot and pile on the points, they will quickly find themselves in trouble.
The temptation will be to put McDaniels on Curry, because McDaniels is easily the Timberwolves best perimeter defender. Instead, it may be more beneficial to put McDaniels on Wiggins or Thompson to ensure they don’t get hot and to keep McDaniels out of foul trouble. This will also require Edwards to be locked in defensively all game. We’ve seen plenty of games where he is completely uninterested as an off-ball defender. If that bad habit resurfaces today, Thompson and/or Wiggins could quickly become a problem with their cuts, off-ball relocations, and offensive rebounding.
- Jaden McDaniels - Illness
- Luka Garza - G League Two-Way
- A.J. Lawson - G League Two-Way
- Jordan McLaughlin - Left calf strain
- Josh Minott - G League on assignment
- Taurean Prince - Right shoulder subluxation
Golden State Warriors
- Andre Iguodala - Left hip injury management