• After falling last night to the Portland Trail Blazers, the Wolves have all their attention focused on the best team in the NBA. This will be the second meeting between the two teams, the first also coming in Oakland way back on November 8. That was a dominating performance for the Warriors who won 125-101.

    The Wolves have come a long way since that time and will look to take down the best of the best, though the health of their leader remains in question. His status was upgraded from doubtful but there’s still uncertainty if he’s ready to go or not.

    The Warriors are on a roll, having lost only four games since December 1. For a team full of superstars the Warriors rarely run isolation offense for their players, even though they could very easily do it and still have a very good offense.

    The fact that they don’t is what makes their offense incredibly dangerous. They willingly share the ball and find the best shot on every possession. The entire team buys into the extra pass concept, but it’s not making the extra pass just to make the extra pass. Every play has a purpose for the team. It’s not running through the motions with them.

    The Warriors don’t even run the pick-and-roll too often, ranking last in the NBA in frequency. Many teams initiate a series of passes from the pick-and-roll, but the Warriors find other ways.

    The Warriors generate most of their offense in transition, though we’ll get to that later. In the half court the Warriors are rarely stagnant. Players without the ball are always moving or cutting or setting back screens for other players who are cutting.

    The Warriors rank third in the NBA in pace, but in the half-court they aren’t in a hurry. They take as much time as it needs to get up the perfect shot every possession. The reason their pace is ranked so high is because they do run a lot of transition offense as well. In fact they are only behind the Lakers in terms of transition offense frequency.

    The transition offense is based off their excellent defense though and not as a result of them simply forcing the issue. They instead are able to get consistent stops and turnovers and look to run whenever they have the advantage.

    When four, or even sometimes all five, players on the floor are all able to run the fastbreak with the ball in their hand it creates easy opportunities to run often. Then when you can surround the ball handler with four pure shooters, and everyone is able to finish at the rim, it creates situations where two point games turn into 20 points games within minutes.

    In these teams’ last meeting the first half was close because the Wolves were able to take care of the ball and keep the Warriors in the half-court. By the second half the flood gates opened and the Warriors ran all over them. It’s nearly impossible to slow them down for an entire game but the Wolves have the personnel to pull it off, should Butler play.

    On a light note, Towns and Butler were drafted by “Team Stephen” in the first ever All-Star draft. They’ll team up with Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, among others, in the All-Star game on February 18. Kevin Durant was selected by “Team LeBron” and will face off with his teammates.

    Key Matchups:

    – Andrew Wiggins vs. Klay Thompson

    – Karl-Anthony Towns vs. Zaza Pachulia

    The Wolves offense is going to be key tonight because it will directly play into their defense. If the Wolves are missing shots or making careless plays the Warriors will turn it into a track meet.

    That means everyone has to take smart shots for the Wolves, especially Wiggins. Wigs loves the mid-range and taking acrobatic shots in the post, but against the Warriors those aren’t going to fly, and they only put Wiggins out of position to get back on defense.

    Same goes for Towns. If Karl is able to get good post position and shoot a lot of interior shots, or even draw some fouls to slow down the game, it will allow the Wolves to set up their defense and at least have a chance at getting some consistent stops.

    Of course if the Wolves defend the half-court like they did last night it won’t make a difference how many points they score.

    Towns will likely see a combination of Zaza and Green most of the time while Wiggins will draw Durant if Butler plays, or Thompson if Butler sits. Every player in the Warriors starting five is a good-to-excellent defender, so no shot will be easy.

    Lineups:

    Jeff Teague – PG

    Andrew Wiggins – SG

    Nemanja Bjelica – SF

    Taj Gibson – PF

    Karl-Anthony Towns – C

    vs.

    Steph Curry – PG

    Klay Thompson – SG

    Kevin Durant – SF

    Draymond Green – PF

    Zaza Pachulia – C

    Injuries:

    Jimmy Butler (knee) – QUESTIONABLE

    Jamal Crawford (toe) – PROBABLE

    Jordan Bell (ankle) – OUT

    Where to Watch:

    10:30 ET/9:30 CT on TNT

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