The World Champion Golden State Warriors took their global star power to China to square off against the feisty Minnesota Timberwolves. It may have been a late start for Warriors fans back home (11pm PST), but the Chinese Dub’s contingent held down the fort and represented in a big way.
Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson powered the starting five’s opening run with a trademark shooting exhibition. They combined to knock down their first four jumpers to loud approval from the excited fans. The Dub’s active front-court walled off the paint from Minnesota’s drives and rotated well out to disrupt passing lanes. The starters raced to a 25-15 run over a T’Wolves squad that initially appeared to have left their energy stateside.
The lead could have stretched even more if not for the Dub’s multiple traveling violations and boneheaded sloppy passes that led to Minnesota points. Still, the starting five’s ability to make tough shots and play hard defense temporarily mitigated the damage. The Warriors ended the first quarter up 32-20.
From here, coach Steve Kerr began to experiment with the reserves. JaVale McGee made his presence known as the first big man off of the bench. He finished with two blocks, put pressure on the boards, dunked one putback and blew another, clanged a surprising twelve foot hook shot attempt, and tussled with Shabazz Muhammad.
Rookie Jordan Bell looked comfortable with crisp passing and effective board crashing. This dude is a physical FORCE, he pushed around the T’Wolves bench bigs with ease. Omri Casspi showed some offensive spark in his first preseason action, attacking off the dribble for a layup once, and cutting back door for an easy bucket another time.
The Dub’s led at the break 55-50. Despite holding the T’Wolves to 31 percent shooting after two quarters, 12 first half turnovers kept Minny in the game. Karl Anthony-Towns showed off his polished outside touch as he easily cashed a pair of treys. Big KAT, Andrew Wiggins and Jimmy Butler took turns battering their way to the line as the T’Wolves made 14 of 16 FT’s at the half.
When the third quarter hit, Coach Kerr left the starters on the court for the first 10 minutes. Kevin Durant used the time to get his groove. Slipping around screens and attacking in transition, he looked to be in mid season form. He would finish 8-13 from the field with 20 points for the game. The T’Wolves were not demoralized however. They weathered the Splash Storm and grinded away. They finished 25 of 29 from the charity stripe, smartly slowing down the Dub’s momentum with every free throw attempt.
The Warriors’ starters sat down for good at the end of the third and Kerr elected not to use Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston in the second half. Patrick McCaw and Nick Young did not handle the playmaking duties well. “Swaggy P” put on a heroic dribbling exhibition for a thrilled crowd… and then misfired repeatedly on heavily contested bombs. Young and McCaw finished a -11 and -14 in plus/minus respectively.
The T’Wolves bench caught fire and eventually put the game away, 111-95. Coach Kerr will not be pleased with the 19 turnovers the team coughed up against Tom Thibodeau’s defense. Curry had a tidy 14-6-4 outing in 24 aggressive minutes and Klay knocked down 5 of 9 shots (3-5 from downtown) for 13 points. Big KAT finished with 16 points and 8 boards, while Jimmy Butler chipped in an efficient 16 points on a tidy 4 of 6 shooting (8-9 on FT’s).
The Warriors next scheduled game is a rematch against Minnesota in China on Sunday, October 8th. It’d be nice to win it, but it’s more important that the team finds it’s rhythm.