November 9, 2017, 2:17 am
It was a tale of two halves for the Timberwolves. In the first they were right with the Warriors step for step. The Wolves weren’t shooting the ball well at 39.2 percent overall, but their defense was in all the right spots taking the Warriors first and second options out of the play and forcing tough shots or turnovers.
The Warriors were keeping Towns out of the paint, holding him to only four shots. Their gameplan was clearly to prevent him from getting comfortable. There was a sense that if the Wolves could just get Towns going in the second half, they might have a chance to pull off the upset.
The Warriors had other ideas.
After leading by one point at halftime, the Warriors outscored the Wolves 44-26 in the third quarter led by an 18-4 run mid way through. That was basically the end of the game as the Warriors coasted the rest of the way for a 125-101 win.
The Wolves’ shot selection deteriorated to mid-range pull-ups or last second heaves. The Warriors were able to take the long rebounds and get out running. The 35 fast-break points from Golden State was their second highest output of the season.
What makes the Warriors such a difficult team to contend with is their defensive system, which plays directly into their offense. The Warriors typically have one defender guard the passing lanes or open space, practically leaving an open offensive player on the court most of the time (while somehow avoiding three-second calls).
Game-by-game the roving defender changes based on how teams run their offense, though normally Kevin Durant excels in this role.
This roving defender is the help on defense, the weak-side shot blocker or the guy who jumps passing lanes. Durant, by far, leads the team with 3.0 blocks and steals combined per game.
With the passing lanes blocked and the threat of a help defender present at all times the Warriors effectively shrink the court and nullify all spacing an offense attempts to create. The Warriors are also so quick to close out on shooters that few openings are created.
For a team like the Wolves that generally struggle with spacing issues, the offense can get swallowed whole which happened in the second half.
Then, since all five guys on the floor for the Warriors can handle the ball and make precision passes (especially in their “death lineup”), the roving defender causes the missed shot or turnover and immediately looks ahead for the fast break and quick strike.
With Durant out the Warriors turned to Iguodala for this role tonight. Iggy was their man before Durant came to town so they were in fine shape defensively. Any offense they may have missed was a non-issue in this game.
With Iggy roving in space (or Casspi often in the second half), the Wolves just weren’t able to generate any consistent offense. As noted Towns wasn’t able to get anything going down low.
In the first half he rarely posted up, and in the second half when he did post up the Wolves couldn’t get him the ball because of the suffocated passing lanes and poor spacing.
Towns ended up finishing with 16 points and 12 rebounds but took only 14 shots (5-of-11 overall, and was fouled on three attempts). He just did not look comfortable most of the night and the Warriors were doing an excellent job pushing him off the block.
Wiggins led the Wolves with 17 points on 6-of-14 shooting, adding six rebounds, three assists, four steals and one 3-pointer. He was inconsistent, making incredible plays at the rim on offense….
Maple Jordan shakes Steph & avoids the block laying it in off the glass pic.twitter.com/MBNi2XPtuC
— CJ Fogler #BlackLivesMatter (@cjzero) November 9, 2017
Then falling asleep and failing to communicate on a fastbreak assignment that led to a layup.
— Dane Moore (@DaneMooreNBA) November 9, 2017
Cleaning up plays like this will go a long way in his development, but it’s the growing pains that we will continue to suffer through in the meantime.
Jimmy Butler put up 11 points on 5-of-12 shooting and there has been some chatter, even worry, about his offensive output. I think this would have been an ideal game for him to break out and look to be selfish, especially when the Wolves needed some points.
I don’t think it’s time to worry just yet though. Butler has come in and been careful not to step on the toes of Wiggins and Towns. This is still their team, they were the alpha dogs before Butler came to town and he’s respecting that dynamic.
Butler will start to find his offense soon, though it will likely be a far cry from when he was asked to do everything on some thin Chicago Bulls teams.
Tonight, the Warriors were just hitting on all cylinders and he couldn’t find any space to operate. Steph Curry was doing a tremendous job on Butler for stretches, which was fascinating to watch.
Curry is an underrated defender thanks to a couple of low-light reels and old opinions that have stuck with him. He’s up there with the best at his position.
Overall the best stretch for the Wolves occurred in the first half, oddly when the Wolves were playing up-tempo. Normally the Wolves are better suited to play slow, grind out possession basketball, but against this Warriors defense they played better before the Warriors’ defense could get set in the half court.
Unfortunately in the second half most of this went away and the Wolves came to a grinding halt. After scoring 12 fastbreak points in the first half, they only had two in the second half.
It wasn’t always just scoring in transition that made them successful, it was Teague or Butler getting across the half-court line setting up the offense with 20 seconds on the shot-clock. Like their defense, it all just came crashing down in the second half.
Up next the Wolves take on the Suns in Phoenix. The Suns are somewhat of a mess at the moment after firing their head coach Earl Watson (who was a questionable hire in the first place) and dealing with the fallout of Eric Bledsoe’s incredulous excuse for a trade demand (claiming he wanted out… of a hair salon).
The Suns won 4-of-5 after the firing, but have since lost four straight. Now Beldsoe is gone too. By Saturday, there will likely be controversy with the team doctors, or even the water boy.