- Who: Minnesota Timberwolves (31-31) vs Golden State Warriors (30-30)
- When: 6:30 PM CT
- National TV: ESPN (Beth Mowins, Richard Jefferson and Ros Gold-Onwude)
- Local TV: Bally Sports North (Michael Grady, Jim Petersen and Katie Storm)
- Radio: 830 WCCO-AM
- Line: Wolves +2.5 | Total: 233.5 (courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook)
the first of four on the West Coast.— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) February 26, 2023
Wolves at Warriors
6:30pm CT, Chase Center
» @BallySportsNOR / @ESPN
Preview » https://t.co/MyRIyQ69D2 pic.twitter.com/0rGDKfTzZc
- Taurean Prince - Personal Reasons
- Jaylen Nowell - Left Knee Tendinopathy
- Karl-Anthony Towns - Right Calf Strain
- Wendell Moore Jr - G-League Assignment
- Draymond Green - Right Knee Contusion
- Steph Curry - Left Superior Tib/Fib Sprain
- Andre Iguodala - Right Hip Soreness
- Gary Payton II - Right Adductor Soreness
- Ryan Rollins - Right Foot Surgery
- Andrew Wiggins - Personal Reasons
What to Watch For
Slow it Down and Grind it Out
At this point, the Warriors are synonymous with high octane offense and fast pace. This season isn’t much different as they rank 11th in transition frequency with 15.3% of their possessions coming in this fashion. Without Steph Curry, though, their offense has taken a new shape.
In the Warriors last seven games, they’ve only hit their average transition rate twice. The next closest was at 13.5% and all others were lower. It shouldn’t be a surprise that a team’s offense takes a different shape when they are missing one of the most dynamic offensive players ever, but it is a clear sign of how skeptical and hesitant they are to empower the rest of the team with that same level of improvisation and freedom.
This offensive adjustment has paid dividends, though. During these last seven games, the Warriors have kept their turnover rate below their season average. They’ve also beaten their season long offensive rating of 115.4 five times. So, even though the Warriors are missing their superstar, they’ve figured out how to minimize their errors and maximize their offensive potential in this span. The Timberwolves will need to stay disciplined and keyed in on their assignments, otherwise the Warriors will be able to pick them apart.
Depleted and Defensively Inept
Over the last ten years, this would be just the second season that the Warriors don’t have a top-10 defense and the fourth that they don’t have a top-5 defense. Their current defensive rating of 114.8 puts them at 18th in the league. In their last seven games, they’ve held opponents under this scoring average only three times with an average defensive rating of 120.6, which would be the second worst defensive rating in the league.
With no Andrew Wiggins or Gary Payton II, and a questionable Draymond Green, this struggling Warriors defense could be even more vulnerable. Kevon Looney, Donte DiVincenzo, Jonathan Kuminga, and Anthony Lamb are all quality defenders in their own right, but without the experience, versatility, and athleticism that Wiggins, Payton, and Green provide, the Warriors don’t have much to hang their hat on.
They are allowing an opponent free throw rate of 22.5, which ranks 23rd in the league. The Warriors have allowed the fewest shots at the rim in the league this season (25.2%), but they are allowing opponents to shoot 68.3% once they get there (24th). With the absence of three of their best perimeter defenders, and the continued lack of rim protection, the Timberwolves should have opportunities to attack the rim and get to the line.
Thankfully This Game Means Something
Friday night was yet another example of how immature this Timberwolves team can be. They continuously fail to show up on a nightly basis and overlook teams they perceive to be lesser than them. Against the four worst teams in the league, they’ve lost seven games. If they would’ve just won three of those, they would have a record of 34-28 and be the fourth seed. Every time an opportunity presents itself, they fail to capitalize.
Against the current teams in the 5-13 range of the standings (only 4 games separate these teams), though, the Timberwolves are 11-9. They continue to tread water and come away with quality performances when it matters. The Warriors missing some important cogs in their machine may yet again lull the Timberwolves into a sense of unearned entitlement, but lets hope that the importance of the moment overcomes their apparent natural instincts.