23/06/2024

Game Preview #71: Wolves vs. Warriors

Hace 3 meses

Game Preview #71: Wolves vs. Warriors

Coming off an electric win headlined by a Naz Reid towel giveaway, the Minnesota Timberwolves look to complete the season sweep over Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors.

Coming off an electric win headlined by a Naz Reid towel giveaway, the Minnesota Timberwolves look to complete the season sweep over Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors.

The Minnesota Timberwolves picked up a win, headlined by a euphoric crowd on a Naz Reid towel giveaway night, to even the season series against the injury-riddled Cleveland Cavilers on Friday night. Now, the Wolves continue their four-game homestand as they welcome Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors on Sunday evening.

This will be the third and final meeting between the Wolves and Warriors this season, with Minnesota looking to remain undefeated against a fully healthy Western Conference foe.


Game Info

  • Who: Minnesota Timberwolves (48-22) vs. Golden State Warriors (36-33)
  • When: Sunday, March 24 at 6:00 PM CT
  • Where: Target Center — Minneapolis, MN
  • TV: Bally Sports North
  • Radio: Wolves App, iHeart Radio, KFAN 100.3 FM
  • Line: Wolves -2.5 | Total: 220 (courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook)

Injury Report

Updated as of Sunday, March 24 at 5:25 PM CT

Minnesota

AVAILABLE:

  • Anthony Edwards (left middle finger dislocation/sprain)
  • Rudy Gobert (left rib sprain)

OUT:

  • Jaylen Clark (right achilles tendon rupture rehab)
  • Karl-Anthony Towns (left meniscus tear)

Golden State

No injuries to report


What to Watch For

Minnesota Timberwolves v Golden State Warriors Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Containing Curry

To find the last time the Wolves faced off against the Warriors, you have to go all the way back to November 14, just 10 games into the 2023-24 season. In that game, Stephen Curry didn’t play against Minnesota, but two days earlier, he did — hanging 38 points on the board on 11-of-25 (44%) from the floor, 5-of-13 (38.5%) from deep, and 11-of-12 from the foul stripe. Golden State’s superstar guard was the team’s only source of consistent offense that night in the Bay, as just three other Warriors tallied double-digit points (Klay Thompson, Dario Šarić and Jonathan Kuminga) on a combined 12-of-37 (32.4%) from the floor.

The Wolves ended up winning that game, 116-110, but Curry, obviously, gave them issues. The future Hall-of-Famer is one of those players you can’t bank on to have a poor day in the offensive office. Usually, Steph will record north of 25 points without breaking much of a sweat, so making it as difficult as possible for him to get to his spots is what the opposing coaching staff preaches to their guys.

Most of Golden State’s offense is centered around Curry, with his splash brother Thompson spacing from deep or running off screens. Steve Kerr and his staff make a living with handoffs involving Curry, Draymond Green, Kevon Looney, or any other big man on the floor. Because of the amount of defensive attention that #30 sees every single game, he needs to constantly be flying around both with the ball in his hands or not, in order to get a remotely open shot off. And even if a defender is draped all over him, chances are, Steph will still bury the shot. After all, you don't make an NBA-best 3,697 career 3-pointers without knowing how to make contested attempts.

(Editor’s Note: If you are reading this on Apple News, please click here so you can view embedded videos important to the analysis, and enjoy the best overall reading experience.)

As mentioned above, by Curry standards, he didn’t particularly burn the Wolves from deep on November 12. The switching combination of Jaden McDaniels, Mike Conley, Anthony Edwards, and Karl-Anthony Towns limited the amount of open looks he got and took away most of Steph’s airspace. However, he was able to use Minnesota’s overaggressive perimeter defense against them, navigating inside the arc, pulling the nearest defender into his web, and getting to the free-throw line frequently.

Below are some of Curry’s stats against individual defenders from that night, courtesy of NBA.com.

  • McDaniels: 8:46 minutes | 47.8 partial poss. | 19 points | 6/13 FG | 2/6 3P
  • Rudy Gobert: 1:20 minutes | 7 partial poss. | 9 points | 3/5 FG | 2/4 3P
  • Edwards: 1:11 minutes | 4.9 partial poss. | 0 points | 0/2 3P
  • Conley: 0:49 minutes | 3.7 partial poss. | 2 points | 1/3 FG
  • Towns: 0:49 minutes | 7.3 partial poss. | 3 points | 1/4 3P
  • Nickeil Alexander-Walker: 0:39 minutes | 2.1 partial poss. | 0 points | 0/1 FG
  • Naz Reid: 0:15 minutes | 1.7 partial poss. | 2 points | 1/1 FG

As the matchup numbers prove, McDaniels got the worst of the Chef Curry experience, but that is primarily because he defended him for pretty much the entire game. Jaden did rack up five fouls, but he logged 35 minutes and was available to match Curry’s minutes without having to sit down for extended periods because of foul trouble. That in itself was impressive and refreshing to see, regardless of Steph’s stat line, as Slim has had issues his entire career containing crafty isolation-heavy guards without letting his emotions take over and forcing himself to sit on the bench with early and stupid fouls.

On Friday, Jaden limited Darius Garland to 19 points on 8-of-21 from the floor and 0-of-6 from deep while picking up just one foul. Of course, Curry and Garland can not be compared in terms of matchup difficulty or even play style, but McDaniels — who has also recorded 41 combined points over his last two games — building on that lockdown defensive showing against Cleveland and staying available for most of the night will most likely win or lose the game for Minnesota on both ends.

In-Season Tournament - Minnesota Timberwolves v Golden State Warriors Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

Prioritize the Paint

Golden State has the smallest collective roster in the NBA, as their two tallest players are Šarić (6-foot-10) and Looney (6-foot-9). According to Cleaning The Glass, the Warriors allow their opponent to shoot 68% at the rim (7th highest) and 48.6% in between 4-14 feet (1st highest), but just 25.3% of their opponent’s total shot attempts are at the rim (an NBA low). To compensate for an overall lack of size, Kerr’s squad turns up the pressure and tries their best to wall up and keep teams out of the paint.

Additionally, the Dubs give up 50.6 points in the paint per game (17th-most). Considering they don’t have a true center, that number is impressive. Again, it is just a testament to their matador perimeter defense and scheming by their Defensive Coordinator, Ron Adams. However, in their first meeting against the Warriors this season, the Wolves outscored them 62-38 in the paint. As a result, Minnesota recorded an offensive rating of 116.6 (two points higher than their season average). But in the second game, the Wolves only outscored Golden State 36-34 in the paint, as their offensive rating came in at just 106. A lot went into an overall lower level of production on offense for Minnesota in that second matchup, like the game-altering brawl that unfolded less than two minutes after tip-off. However, there has always been a direct correlation between success in the paint and overall offensive execution for the Wolves.

On Friday against the Cavs, Reid got his first start alongside Gobert since February 5, 2023. Finch and his staff elected to inject some more size against Cleveland’s length and desire to get inside while also creating some interesting offensive sets. One of which transpired in the first quarter, didn’t manufacture any points but has serious potential.

Above, we see Edwards and Reid engage in what appears to be an ordinary pick-and-pop. However, what makes this play unique to the Wolves is that they have the 7-foot-1 Stifle Tower lurking in the weak-side dunker’s spot. As the play unfolds, all that transpires is an Ant pull-up over the mismatched Jarrett Allen. The shot smacks off the backboard and clanks off the rim before falling into Allen's hands. No points were recorded, but this play alone has four possible options for a high-quality bucket.

  1. An Ant mid-range against a mismatched defender
  2. A catch-and-shoot three for Naz if his defender over-helps on Ant
  3. A lob to Gobert if his defender is forced to get pulled out of the restricted area
  4. Like in any pick-play, a wide-open corner triple if the defense gets caught sagging

This isn't an over-complicated play or one that would make Phil Jackson envious, but it is something the Wolves should go to much more when Reid is on the floor next to Gobert.

Additionally, any direct pick-and-roll between Edwards or Conley and Gobert should also be barbeque chicken. There should be no reason why Rudy isn’t a primary fixture of the offense right off the jump on Sunday. The Warriors, even though they sit at tenth in the Western Conference with their 36-33 record, are a team more than capable of running their opponent to the ground if they get caught sleeping. Far too often this season, the Wolves have opened games sluggish and discombobulated on offense. That just can’t happen this time around. The ball needs to be contained, and arguably, the best way to do that is by penetrating inside and capitalizing on an undersized Golden State frontcourt.

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