OAKLAND, Calif. — The new-look Minnesota Timberwolves hope to take their early-season success to a new level when they face the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday night.
The game matches two of the NBA’s hottest teams. The Timberwolves (7-3) are riding a five-game winning streak as they open a three-game trip. The Warriors (8-3) tipped off a four-game homestand with a win over the Miami Heat on Monday, their fourth victory in a row.
The clubs haven’t seen each other yet in the regular season, but they became acquainted during a two-game tour of China in the preseason.
The Warriors have beaten the Timberwolves in 17 of the past 20 meetings, including twice convincingly at home last season — by 13 and 14 points — on their way to a second championship in three seasons.
Meanwhile, Minnesota missed the playoffs for the 13th consecutive season last year despite improving to 31 wins under first-year coach Tom Thibodeau.
Their 7-3 record under Thibodeau this season is the franchise’s best start since a 9-1 beginning under Flip Saunders in 2001.
The current five-game winning streak includes four times scoring 112 or more points. Impressively, the Timberwolves also have held their last three opponents to fewer than 100 points.
Guard Jimmy Butler, the club’s high-scoring acquisition in the offseason, totaled only 17 points in Minnesota’s two most recent wins.
He noted Wednesday he gladly would do it again if it meant two more wins in the next two games.
“As long as we win, I’m happy,” Butler said. “That’s what they brought me here for, to help this organization win. I feel like I’m doing a great job with that … I don’t care what anybody says about how I’m playing. I really don’t. We’re winning, so at the end of the day, I’m a winner. If we’re winning, I’m good.”
The Timberwolves are led in scoring by holdovers Karl-Anthony Towns (21.8 points per game) and Andrew Wiggins (19.9). Then come newcomers Butler (15.1) and Jeff Teague (13.4).
The Warriors counter with a rather productive foursome of their own. Stephen Curry (25.7), Kevin Durant (24.8) and Klay Thompson (20.3) all average more than 20 points a game for the league’s highest-scoring team, but Draymond Green is playing the best all-around basketball of the bunch of late.
After a slow start this season that saw him ejected from one game, Green has demonstrated his all-around brilliance during the Warriors’ current winning streak. He scored 15 or more points in all four games, shot 23-for-34 overall and 9-for-14 on 3-pointers while averaging 7.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists.
Green has accumulated a plus-74 plus/minus during the streak.
The Warriors are 6-0 this season when Green has scored at least 10 points, 2-3 when he hasn’t.
Green, the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year, also spearheaded a defensive effort in the 97-80 victory over Miami on Monday that allowed Golden State to win comfortably despite failing to score 100 points for the first time this season.
“We can play defense with anybody,” Warriors backup forward Omri Casspi said after the game. “Everybody should know that.”
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