The Minnesota Timberwolves are next in line in the payback department as they host the undermanned Golden State Warriors on Friday night.
Participants in five straight trips to the NBA Finals, the Warriors are 7-3 in the past 10 games against the Timberwolves.
But this year’s version of the Warriors resembles recent editions in name only, as Golden State will take the court for the first of three head-to-heads this season without injured Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, on top of having lost Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, DeMarcus Cousins and Shaun Livingston in the offseason.
Those seven players combined for 121 of the 130 points in an overtime loss at Minnesota in the Warriors’ most recent visit in March. The other nine points came from Kevon Looney, who also is currently injured, and Quinn Cook, another who bolted in free agency.
The Warriors hope to get one of their key newcomers back for the middle game of a three-game trip, one that began with a 129-112 loss at Houston on Wednesday.
Golden State coach Steve Kerr is calling D’Angelo Russell a “gametime decision” as the point guard attempts to end a three-game absence due to a sprained ankle.
Two-way player Ky Bowman, an undrafted rookie from Boston College, has averaged 37.3 minutes in Russell’s absence and earned the extended playing time, contributing 14.3 points and 5.3 assists to an offense that burned Portland and Houston in the past two games for an average of 119.5 points.
Unfortunately for the Warriors, they seem to miss the defense of Thompson and Green more than the offense of Curry and Durant. Golden State ranks near the bottom of the NBA in several key defensive categories, including points allowed (121.5), field goal percentage allowed (49.0) and 3-point field goal percentage allowed (38.9).
Kerr observed after Wednesday’s 129-112 loss at Houston that the losing might already be catching up with his team.
“A big part of this league is just fighting,” Kerr noted to reporters after the game. “Keeping your energy and your spirit up all the time. Whether you’re having a good night or a bad night, it can’t be dependent on your own success.”
In Minnesota, the Warriors no doubt will see a team licking its chops to face a struggling defensive team.
Much of the Timberwolves’ early success has been the result of an improved offense, one that has produced 116 or more points in five of seven games.
As expected, Karl-Anthony Towns has led the way with a 26.8-point scoring average, but Andrew Wiggins has been a bigger story, increasing his per-game output from last year’s 18.1 to this year’s 22.4 in the early going.
Wiggins has scored 25 and 30 points in his past two games, hitting half of his 42 shots.
The 30 came in Wednesday’s loss at Memphis, Minnesota’s second straight, in a 137-121 shootout in which Towns assured offense wasn’t the problem.
“We gave up a gazillion points,” he told reporters afterward. “We better hope we score a gazillion and one. We didn’t do that.”
–Field Level Media
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