It’s hard to believe that a few days ago the Golden State Warriors beat the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers, and then blew out the San Antonio Spurs. Since then they’ve looked truly awful, suffering back-to-back embarrassing losses, first to the New York Knicks, and then to the Utah Jazz.
Now they’re back at it, thankfully against some lesser competition.
Who: Golden State Warriors (8-8) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (4-11)
When: 7:00 p.m. PT
Where: Chase Center, San Francisco, California
TV: NBA TV and NBC Sports Bay Area
Projected starting lineups:
Warriors: Stephen Curry, Kelly Oubre Jr., Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green, James Wiseman
Wolves: D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, Josh Okogie, Jarred Vanderbilt, Naz Reid
Warriors: Lost to the Jazz 127-108 — 2-3 in their last 5 games
Wolves: Beat the Pelicans 120-110 — 1-4 in their last 5 games
Team ratings (garbage-time adjusted, per Cleaning the Glass)
Warriors: 106.5 offense (24th), 111.4 defense (17th), -4.9 net (25th)
Wolves: 104.5 offense (30th), 114.7 defense (28th), -10.2 net (30th)
Lately the Warriors have looked really bad, but the scheduling powers that be have gifted them with something very special: a doubleheader against a team that has been comfortably the worst in basketball. The pressure is on the Warriors to make it fruitful.
That pressure is doubled because the Wolves sent their 2021 first-round pick to the Dubs. The pick is top-three protected, but it’s still in Golden State’s best interest that Minnesota lose as many games as possible. If Minny finishes with the worst record in the league, it’s about a 60% chance that the pick is No. 4 or No. 5, and the Warriors keep it. And if it lands in the top three, then the Dubs get an unprotected first-round pick in 2022.
So there’s a lot on the line. Golden State needs to look good — they’re running out of time.
Players to watch
Warrior to watch: Steph Curry.
I’m trying to avoid putting Curry in this column too often, because he’s obviously always the player to watch for the Dubs. But it’s especially the case today, with Golden State going up against one of the worst defenses in the league.
The Warriors starting lineup has had a horrific offense — like, a historically horrific offense — and part of it has been their inability and unwillingness to get Curry the ball with great frequency. There’s no excuse for that to be the case against Minnesota, when Golden State will have myriad favorable offensive matchups.
Wolf to watch: Malik Beasley.
After being a solid player on the Denver Nuggets bench for a few years, Beasley has finally gotten a chance to play a bigger role in Minnesota. He’s making the most of it, averaging 18.9 points and shooting 37.0% from distance.
He’s capable of exploding on any night, and he’s capable of putting up a low-efficiency stinker on any night. It could go either way.
Matchup to watch: Andrew Wiggins vs. D’Angelo Russell.
I’m stretching the definition of “matchup” here, since these two play different positions and are unlikely to spend much, if any time defending each other.
But they’re linked. The Warriors swapped these two max contracts at last season’s deadline, with the aforementioned lottery pick coming back to the Warriors in the process. They didn’t like the Russell fit, on or off the court. They banked on the Wiggins fit being much better.
Wiggins will want to play well in his first game against his old team. Russell will want to do the same.
Keys to victory
- Unleash Steph Curry from the very start
- Move the ball and take advantage of Minnesota’s poor defense
- Force the Wolves into isolations and poor shot selection, limiting efficiency
- Regain some swagger
Bank a dub, Dubs.