Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Golden State Warriors, 2/24/13

Photo Credit: Adidas

Photo Credit: Adidas

Our Pups return home after a high scoring affair Friday night against the OKC Thunder to take on the vastly improved Golden State Warriors Sunday afternoon. While the Wolves season has fallen apart, the Warriors are meeting or exceeding expectations to this point in the season. Minnesota comes into Sunday’s game with a 20-32 record, while the Warriors come into the game off of a big, overtime victory Friday night against San Antonio, improving their record to 32-23 on the year.

Before Friday’s game, the Warriors announced that Andrew Bogut would miss another indefinite amount of games due to problems with his back. This has to be frustrating for Warriors fans as the team has climbed to the six seed in the conference largely without their starting center. One must wonder “what could have been” if Bogut was able to stay healthy, particularly in an effort to avoid the Spurs and/or Thunder in the first round of the playoffs. That said, I don’t think the Warriors will get many pity points from the Timberwolves or their fans given what has transpired this season for our Pups.

These two teams have not met since November, when the Warriors handed the Wolves two losses over the span of eight days. Golden State took the first match-up 106-98 at the Target Center and then the second match-up in the Bay area 96-85.

Finally, in case you missed it, the Warriors launched a new jersey in Friday night’s game on ESPN – the Spurs-Warriors game followed the Wolves-Thunder match-up on ESPN’s doubleheader. The jersey is more t-shirt vs. jersey and is certainly an interesting mix into the lineup. The cynic in me suggests that this type of “jersey” makes it an easier transition for the NBA to start putting brand logos and advertisements on their apparel.

Player to watch:
David Lee – Lee had two solid performances against the Wolves in those November meetings, putting up 18 points and 13 rebounds in Minnesota and 17 & 8 in the following match-up. Without Kevin Love again, it will be important for Minnesota’s frontcourt to keep Lee off the boards as much as possible and to stay in front of him in the isolation sets, not allowing him to fly by the defender and/or having a second defender backing up whoever is matching up against Lee directly.

Match-up to watch:
Ricky Rubio vs. Stephen Curry. The could-have-been teammates are the primetime match-up in Sunday afternoon’s meeting. About the only positive topic the Wolves have going right now is the on-going improvement in Rubio’s game as he continues to build/gain confidence in his knee. Curry is having a career year this season, coming into the game averaging a career best 21.1 ppg, 6.6 apg, and 4.0 rpg. He also has a 19.8 PER, which is good for fifth highest in the league among PG’s.

Predictions:
The Warriors are coming off of a solid win against the Spurs Friday night, so there is a chance of a letdown here at the Target Center. However, I won’t go on record predicting one.
Final score prediction: Twolves 104, Warriors 112

Three stars of the game predictions:
1. Harrison Barnes
2. David Lee
3. Nikola Pekovic

Lets go Wolves!

Minnesota Timberwolves 85 – Golden State Warriors 96

Mathew Sumner – Associated Press

Another game, another loss. In the second game of their road trip, the Minnesota Timberwolves fell for the fifth game in a row, and the third loss in a row since the return of Kevin Love. Led by Stephen Curry’s 5 three-pointers, the Warriors dropped the Timberpups by a score of 96-85.

K-Love had his worst shooting night of the season as he went only 6-20 from the field while attempting a mere 4 free throws. Love had a very tough time with his right hook shot, which is usually his bread and butter on the low post. In the second half, Love threw his protective black glove to the sideline, in an obvious signal that he feels that it is restricting him on his shot. Timberwolves medical personnel states that he can no longer do any more damage to the hand by not wearing the glove, except the fact that it remains more vulnerable to injury should he fall on it or hit it against someone. Regardless, it appears that Love is done with the black glove, and hopefully that will correlate with more made field goals.

The Timberwolves three-point shooting woes were on full display last night as they converted only 5 of their 27 attempts (18.5%). Although Golden State shot an uncharacteristic 6-21 from long-range, they once again outshot the Wolves from the field (42%-38%) and relied heavily on Curry who carried the Warriors throughout the second half to yet another second-half comeback victory over the Pups.

Carl Landry was fantastic off the bench for the Warriors, who recorded 18 points and 9 rebounds while sinking all 10 of his free throw attempts. Andrei Kirilenko had yet another poor shooting night as he scored 11 points on 4 of 13 shooting, including missing all 5 of his three-point attempts.

Despite outscoring the Warriors in the paint by a tally of 46-36, Golden State won the rebounding battle (48-39) and was very active on weak-side rebounding. Draymond Green, David Lee, and Harrison Barnes all caught their Wolves defenders sleeping at times and exploited poor block-outs to create second chance opportunities all game long. Klay Thompson, who is generally considered one of the top three-point shooters in the league, went a miserable 1-8 from beyond the arc, but made up for it with his mid-range game on his way to scoring a game-high 24 points.

Derrick Williams, having received two consecutive DNP-CD, played just about as good of an 11 minutes as he has all season. D-Will looked very sharp on both ends of the floor, and appeared as if he was not over-thinking things as he previously has been this season. He flowed with the game and did not hesitate when given an opportunity to score, and scored 10 points while hitting 2 of his 4 three-point attempts. On defense, Williams blocked 2 shots and recorded one steal while turning the ball over once. D-Will was one of only two Timberwolves to have a positive +/-, with the other being Dante Cunningham. Cunningham brought tremendous energy off the bench and scored 6 points (3-5 FG) while snagging 2 steals on defense. Dante received a relatively smaller role given that D-Will saw the floor, but the two of the together were ultimately effective and were one of the only bright spots for the Pups.

Nikola Pekovic finished with another solid line of 17 points (7-13 FG) and 6 rebounds in 30 minutes, but had a much bigger first than second half, as the Warriors really turned it up on their low-post defense.

The Timberwolves starting backcourt had yet another poor showing, as Luke Ridnour and Malcolm Lee shot a combined 1-10 from the field while getting thoroughly outplayed by the Warriors guards. The Pups backup guards once again outplayed the starters and subsequently Alexey Shved and JJ Barea received more minutes than both Ridnour and Lee. Shved had a nice night finishing with 9 points (3-7 FG) and 5 assists while Barea ended with 8 points (2-6 FG) and 10 assists. All in all, the Wolves are in desperate need of three-point shooting from both of their guard units as the guards shot an unacceptable combined 2-12 from three-point range.

The Timberwolves lack of players who can create offense for themselves has been a main highlight during their current 5-game skid, and they will need to start hitting more three-pointers and playing tougher defense if they are to break the losing streak. It is also important that this team continues to learn how to operate with Kevin Love in offensive and defensive sets, as it has fundamentally shifted the way this team plays. The Timberwolves next matchup is on the road in Sacramento on Tuesday night, and here are tonight’s three stars of the game.

  1. Stephen Curry
  2. Harrison Barnes
  3. David Lee