Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves at Golden State Warriors

After beginning the season 5-2, the Timberwolves are in the midst of a 4-game skid as they prepare for Saturday’s matchup in Oakland. Despite getting Kevin Love back this past Wednesday, the Pups fell to both Denver and Portland and will need to gain chemistry as a unit after getting back their top offensive weapon.

Golden State, 7-6, has seen tangible improvement due to a healthy unit led by Stephen Curry and David Lee. The Warriors are still waiting on the debut of Andrew Bogut, who has been hampered with ankle problems over the past few seasons. Adding Bogut to a frontcourt that already consists of Lee, rookie Festus Ezeli, and six-man stud Carl Landry could make Golden State one of the best low post teams in the West.

The Pups recently got both Nikola Pekovic and JJ Barea back from injury, but the team has looked very disoriented in their offensive and defensive sets with the newly healthy roster.

The Timberwolves still anxiously await the return of PG phenom Ricky Rubio, as the platoon at PG including Ridnour, Barea, and Malcolm Lee has proven to be deficient on both sides of the ball. Facing a Golden State backcourt that can really shoot the long-ball, the Wolves will need to bring tremendous intensity on defense in order to slow down sharp-shooters Curry and Klay Thompson.

Rookie Harrison Barnes has come into his own as of late, and previously scored 18 points in their earlier victory over the Wolves merely a week ago. Derrick Williams has received two consecutive DNP-CD since K-Love returned on Wednesday, and his long-term future with the Timberwolves is currently under hot debate. Despite ranking in the top-ten in defensive efficiency, Williams is in Adelman’s doghouse and how he will get back into the rotation remains a mystery.

Here is my prediction for the three stars of the game:

  1. Kevin Love
  2. David Lee
  3. Andrei Kirilenko

Minnesota Timberwolves 98 – Golden State Warriors 106

The Minnesota Timberwolves were back on the Target Center floor Friday night, hosting the Golden State Warriors.  Little change on the injury front for the Wolves, with Barea, Roy, and Pekovic all taking the night off again, perhaps due to the break the team has coming up (they don’t play again until Wednesday).  Josh Howard passed his physical and suited up for the team.

Tonight’s starting lineup for the Wolves was consistent with the past few games – Ridnour, Lee, Kirilenko, DWill, and Stiemsma.  Golden State opened up with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, David Lee, and Festus Ezeli – who has the greatest first name in the league … obviously.

The game opened up with a nice pace.  AK47 got off to a hot start with the team’s first seven points.  Similar to what I’ve said much of this week, DWill got off to a tough start with a few misses in close.  However, within two minutes he hit two jumpers near the top of the key, allowing the Target Center crowd to breathe a sigh of relief.  Just seeing the ball go through the hoop seemed to have paid off, as Derrick continued to shine, finishing the quarter with thirteen points.

At the end of the 1st quarter, the Pups held a five point lead, 27-22.  DWill and AK47’s output matched the Warriors in the quarter, accounting for the vast majority of the offense for the Wolves.  The Warriors scoring was evenly distributed throughout those that saw the floor in the quarter, with the only noteworthy piece for the opponent being that David Lee struggled from the field against DWill, shooting 1-5 from the field for two points.

The Wolves started the second quarter with a very different lineup, excluding Ridnour.  Shved, Howard, Cunningham, and Amundson joined Luke on the floor.  It was a quick start for the newest Pup, Josh Howard, as he grabbed a quick offensive rebound and hit a jump shot to open up the quarter.  Welcome to the Wolves!

Adelman’s second unit played very nicely in the quarter.  Shved, Howard, and Cunningham all played good defense, hit open shots, and helped build the lead to double digits.  However, the lead was short lived, as GS chipped away in the back half of the quarter, largely led by Carl Landry and David Lee.  At the half, the Warriors led 53-50 as the Wolves really fell apart in the final two minutes or so.

Here are a few halftime thoughts through my Wolves lens:

  • Derrick Williams, the Awakening?  15 points, with a strong outside jumper falling
  • Alexey Shved with another great showing – 12 points, 3 assists, and 2 rebounds in 15 minutes.
  • David Lee and Carl Landry combined for 20 points and 10 rebounds in the half, Stiemsma is going to have to commit a hard foul in the 3rd quarter (he didn’t)

Both teams opened the second half with the same starting lineups, but the Wolves were completely outplayed to begin the quarter.  Shved replaced Malcolm Lee pretty quickly and I suspect that is (and should be) the end of the ‘Malcolm Lee as a starting SG’ plan.  The Wolves had to burn a quick timeout as the Warriors built the lead to nine.

Unfortunately for the Pups, momentum remained with the Warriors for the rest of the quarter, as the visitor extended its lead to 13 points at the end of the quarter, leading 82-69.  The Wolves continued to give up way too many points in the paint and went cold on the offensive end of the floor.  In a change of pace from the first half, the Warriors guards and wings led the way in the 3rd quarter, with Curry, Thompson, and Barnes all contributing.  In fact, at the end of the 3rd, all three of them were at least +17 on the floor for the game.  Ouch.

The first few minutes of the 4th quarter was a continuation of the 3rd.  The Warriors continued to hit from both the inside and outside.  Any time the Wolves would make a play or two to get the lead to around ten, the Warriors answered.  This lasted for the first six minutes of the quarter and then the Wolves came to life.  The latest comeback effort was led by, of course, Alexey Shved.

Alexey continues to be the sparkplug for this team in the 4th quarter.  He’s dishing and scoring and quite honestly, seems to have ice in his veins.  Maybe it is Russian Vodka?  In any case, Shved, Cunningham, and DWill all had strong 4th quarters cutting the lead to a one possession game at one point.  However, the Warriors didn’t lose their composure and were able to do enough to secure the win.  In the final minutes, the Pups missed a few shots from long range and a layup or two, leading to the team’s second consecutive loss on its home court.

Let’s hope the four nights off forthcoming allow the Pups to get healthy and this team can come out swinging next week and into the end of the month.

Three Stars of the Game:

  1. David Lee
  2. Derrick Williams
  3. Alexey Shved