The Minnesota Timberwolves went to Oakland Wednesday night to play the defending NBA-champion Golden State Warriors for the first time since their two preseason contests in China. Although the Wolves were down by only one at the half, a 44-26 third quarter was a deficit too big to conquer as they lost to the Warriors 125-101, ending their five game winning streak.
1. The Wolves owned the paint in this game in two aspects. First, they won the battle of the boards, hauling in 53 rebounds, including nine offensively, to the Warriors 49. Second, they scored more points in the paint, outscoring Golden State 52-44.
2. A second positive is that they played disciplined basketball, turning the ball over only 14 times compared to the Warriors 19, and then they only fouled the Warriors 14 times as opposed to being fouled 23 times, leading to 27 free throw attempts. However, one reason why the Wolves fouled less than the Warriors could be attributed to the Warriors taking 36 three-point shots, nearly half of their total of 85.
3. An additional note on the turnover margin, the Wolves forced those 19 turnovers with 15 steals, and that lead to 26 points off of turnovers, outscoring the Warriors in this category 26-18.
1. Despite some of those good things defensively, the Wolves failed to pass the test against the league's best offense. With Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry leading the way, the Warriors shot 56.5% from the field, and 41.7% from beyond the arc, hitting 15 of 36 three point shots, and assisting on 37 of 48 made baskets.
2. On the flip side the Wolves shooting was abysmal. The Wolves shot below their season norms in field goal percentage, three-pointers, and free throws, shooting 41.3% from the field, an atrocious 20.8% from beyond the arc (missing all eight attempts in the first quarter), and 74.1% from the stripe. Now some of this could've been attributed to the Warriors defense, but if the Wolves were to have shot their normal percentages of 36.6% from three, and 79% from the stripe the Wolves would've produced an extra 26 points, which would've given the Wolves a hypothetical edge. In this scenario the Wolves would've shot 50% from the field, so in order to match that normal field goal percentage they would've made fewer two-point shots, but the point still stands.
3. The Wolves lost by 24, and despite the fact they shot poorly, they lost to a Warriors team without Kevin Durant. Without Durant the Warriors are still one of, if not the most lethal offensive team in the league, but in the Wolves next match-up with the Warriors, most likely with Durant in uniform, the Wolves will be facing a whole other animal both offensively and defensively that will give the Wolves a huge challenge.
The Wolves brought in Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague for a reason this offseason. Butler needs to play big in these games, and Teague needs to hit his threes. Towns had a solid game, but come June, the Wolves will need him, Butler and Wiggins to be at the peak of their powers offensively and defensively to make a run at these Warriors. Luckily, coach Tom Thibadeau has another 71 games to get them to that level, the next of which is in Phoenix at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday against the tanking Phoenix Suns.