GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS (52-12)
at MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES (26-37)
Tip-off: Friday, 8:00 p.m. ET
Line: Golden State -5, Total: 213.5
The Warriors look to get back on track against a hot Wolves team.
The Warriors’ post-Kevin Durant weaknesses were on full display on national TV on Wednesday night, as they fell 99-86 at home to the Boston Celtics (BOS +7). They shot only 6-for-30 from three-point range as a team and they turned the ball over 18 times, a recipe for disaster for a team that relies on ball movement and stellar shooting. At 52-12 (29-33-2 ATS), their lead atop the Western Conference (and league-wide) standings is down to two games over the Spurs. They’ll play the first game of a road back-to-back on Friday in Minnesota, where they’ll play a Wolves team that’s coming off an impressive 107-91 home win over the Clippers on Wednesday (MIN +3.5). After having had an early double-digit lead whittled down to two at halftime, Minnesota outscored Los Angeles by 11 in the third quarter to retake control and put the game away. Minnesota is only 2.5 games out of the Western Conference playoff picture despite holding a .413 winning percentage at 26-37 (30-33 ATS). Over the last five seasons, home teams coming off an upset win as a home underdog (MIN) are 16-38 ATS against opponents coming off of a home loss. In the same timeframe, games involving a team coming off of an upset win and revenging two straight losses in which they gave up at least 100 points (Minnesota lost 115-102 at Golden State on November 26 and 116-108 at home on December 11; they lost against a 12.5-point spread in the first and covered a 10-point spread in the latter) are 104-51 Under against totals of 200 points or more. Durant is the only injured Warrior at the moment. Minnesota lost SG Zach LaVine for the season just over a month ago, and SG Brandon Rush is considered probable for Friday night’s game while battling an illness.
With Durant (25.3 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 4.8 APG, 1.1 SPG, 1.6 BPG) out for perhaps the remainder of the regular season, the Warriors will be leaning particularly hard on PG Stephen Curry (24.9 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 6.3 APG, 1.7 SPG) and SG Klay Thompson (21.8 PPG, 3.6 RPG) for scoring. On Wednesday night, the Splash Brothers were unable to deliver. They scored, sure, combining for 48 points on the night, but their collaborative 4-of-17 three-point effort won’t cut it against good teams. Curry, in particular, disappeared down the stretch, ending the third quarter with a three-pointer and a taunt directed at humble and graceful Celtics rookie Jaylen Brown before failing to score even one single point in the fourth. He’s shooting 31.3% from three in (four games in) the month of March and Thompson is at 25%. PF Draymond Green (10.3 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 7.1 APG, 2.2 SPG, 1.4 BPG) is facilitating an offense that’s without its biggest weapon, which shouldn’t be a problem for him. He does need to step up when called upon to score, but he only scored 13 points on 15 shots against the Celtics, and only had two assists, to boot. SF Andre Iguodala (6.7 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 3.4 APG, 1.0 SPG) should benefit most from the injury statistically, reminding fans that he was once an All-Star. He scored 24 points in a win against the Hawks on Monday.
Both this young Timberwolves team and their literal centerpiece, second-year C Karl-Anthony Towns (24.1 PPG, 12.3 RPG, 1.4 BPG), entered the season with big expectations. When the Wolves failed to meet them, Towns went under the national media radar as well. He shouldn’t have, as he’s been brilliant pretty much all year. He scored 29 points to go with 14 boards against the Clippers, and he’s averaging 28 and 13 in his last 22 games. He’s been remarkably consistent, scoring at least 20 points in 18 straight games. He’s also on a seven-game streak of grabbing at least 14 rebounds. SF Andrew Wiggins (23.2 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 1.0 SPG), now in his third year in the league, has also shown positive development. The biggest concern around his game when he entered the league was his scoring ability, but that’s been the least of his problems. He’s sixth among NBA small forwards in scoring and 13th in shooting percentage (45.8%). It’s the other parts of his game—passing, rebounding, defending—that could use some work. PG Ricky Rubio (9.2 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 8.7 APG, 1.8 SPG) has been excellently lately, and Wolves fans should be happy he wasn’t traded at the deadline. Meanwhile, rookie PG Kris Dunn (3.7 PPG) isn’t quite the finished product that many thought he would be after playing four years of college ball. PF Gorgui Dieng (10.0 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 1.1 BPG) and Rush (4.0 PPG) have joined Rubio, Wiggins and Towns to form the starting five recently. SF Shabazz Muhammad (9.5 PPG) got his first start of the season in Rush’s place against Los Angeles.