• 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….

    Then falling asleep and failing to communicate on a fastbreak assignment that led to a layup.

    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.

Fantasy News

  • Nikola Jokic
    C, Denver Nuggets

    Nikola Jokic posted his fourth straight elite fantasy season and his best season to date, finishing as the 9th best option in 9-category formats.

    Jokic is as reliable as they come with another season of huge popcorn numbers. He scored 20.2 points (a career-high) to go with 10.2 boards and 6.9 assists on a strong 52.8% shooting from the floor and 81.3% from the line. The cash counter output also maintained from past seasons, with 1.2 steals, 0.7 blocks and 1.1 triples. At this point, Jokic's best asset is his consistency. This is what we've grown to expect from him as someone who always shows up to work. He played every game for the Nuggets this season and has missed just 20 games total in his five-year career. As long as he is healthy, he's money in the bank.

  • Jamal Murray
    PG, Denver Nuggets

    Jamal Murray took a nice step forward in his fourth NBA campaign and approached top-50 value in 9-category leagues due to a large increase in shooting efficiency.

    Murray was limited to 55 games due to a sprained left ankle but performed well when he was on the court. The popcorn numbers were similar to his 2018-19 season, with 18.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.9 3-pointers in 32.8 minutes. The 25 spot jump to the 52nd player in 9-category format was directly tied to a 1.8% improvement to 45.5% from the floor and a 4.5% improvement to 89.3% from the charity stripe. If he can continue to improve his passing and game management, he can hop into the top-50 with ease going forward.

  • Paul Millsap
    PF, Denver Nuggets

    Paul Millsap maintained his typical per-minute production, finishing as the 97th player in 9-category formats in just 24.4 minutes per game.

    Millsap's minute decline over the past three seasons in Denver have muted the upside he enjoyed during his heyday in Atlanta. In 44 games and a few nagging injuries including a left knee contusion and a sprained right ankle, he put up 12.0 points, 5.9 rebounds, 0.9 steals and 0.6 blocks on good percentages (48.6 from the floor and a career-high 83.3% from the free throw line). Millsap should continue to be a good per-minute producer even if he moves on to a new destination for 2021, but expect the minutes to be the real sticking point as he enters his age 35 season.

  • Mason Plumlee
    C, Denver Nuggets

    Mason Plumlee slogged his way to an unimpressive 2019-20 season, finishing well outside the top-250 in 9-category formats and averaging 7.2 points and 5.3 rebounds without much else worth noting.

    On top of unexciting popcorn numbers, Plumlee shot an abysmal 53.6% from the charity stripe. He was a volume play only who didn't really provide anything exciting in limited minutes. Playing behind Nikola Jokic was always going to limit Plumlee's production and keep him even out of streaming range.

  • Monte Morris
    PG, Denver Nuggets

    Monte Morris compiled top-150 value in 9-category formats as the primary backup option to Jamal Murray during the 2019-20 season.

    Morris had a strong season splitting time between backup point guard and fill-in starter when Jamal Murray went down with a sprained ankle. Morris enjoyed top-100 value during Murray's absence and put together a solid line of 8.4 points, 3.5 assists and 0.8 steals in 21.4 minutes. It was a solid campaign on compiled volume, but it was a step back from a top-100 season in 2018-19 where he got three more minutes per contest and made good for two more points with heightened efficiency. Going forward, Morris should be a solid deep-league point guard who can provide assists cheaply without any major weaknesses.

  • Torrey Craig
    SG, Denver Nuggets

    Torrey Craig played serviceable streamer minutes when called upon for the Nuggets and was an underappreciated starter at various points for a good Nuggets team.

    Craig is an unheralded player who is one of the prime examples of the "better in real life" syndrome. He won't wow anyone on the stat sheet and therefore he's hard to love in fantasy basketball. His 5.0 points, 3.1 rebounds, 0.4 steals, 0.6 blocks and 0.7 triples on decent shooting from the floor was good for just 297th in 9-category formats. He did have good stretches and was an acceptable daily play on the right night, but getting into an everyday streamer role is tough in a crowded wing situation in Denver.

  • Keita Bates-Diop
    SF, Denver Nuggets

    Keita Bates-Diop played sparingly for the Nuggets in 2019 as one of the many pieces involved in the four-team deadline trade and finished on the fringes of the top-300 for fantasy purposes.

    Bates-Diop got shuffled into the deck in a crowded Nuggets organization. He was limited to two games with his new club and just 9.5 minutes when he did appear. He spent time in the G-League after joining the Nuggets and on the season he appeared in 39 games, mainly as an injury replacement, and provided 17.1 minutes of 6.6 points, 2.9 rebounds, 0.9 defensive counters, 0.8 triples and some needed energy. Bates-Diop has some potential in the right situation to be a streamer and we'll have to see whether he makes an impact during the NBA restart and if he will be able to crack the rotation in the upcoming season as well.

  • Thomas Bryant
    C, Washington Wizards

    Both Thomas Bryant and Gary Payton II have tested positive for COVID-19 and did not accompany the Wizards to Orlando on Thursday.

    Scott Brooks mentioned that the Wizards were missing some players and didn't disclose why they were absent, so the dots were fairly easy to connect. Bryant's the big name for fantasy purposes here, and if he ends up sitting out the Orlando games it'll mean plenty of work for Moe Wagner, Ian Mahinmi and Anzejs Pasecniks. As for Payton, he was in line for minutes in a thinned-out backcourt but his potential absence would help players like Troy Brown and Jerome Robinson.

    Source: Ava Wallace on Twitter

  • Noah Vonleh
    PF, Denver Nuggets

    Noah Vonleh mainly rode the bench for the Nuggets, appearing in only four games after being acquired at the deadline in the large four-team trade that sent Malik Beasley to the Timberwolves.

    Vonleh had a decent season in New York in 2018-19 as a perfectly reasonable streamer just outside the top-150. In 33 games this season split between Minnesota and Denver, he averaged 3.8 points, 3.7 rebounds and 0.5 defensive counters in 11 minutes per game. The Nuggets aren't the team to be on to try to get depth minutes in a crowded rotation so if there's any hope for Vonleh to be a streamer again, it'll be on a different team.

  • PJ Dozier
    PG, Denver Nuggets

    PJ Dozier had a forgettable stint in Denver, with 21 mostly lackluster appearances, but will be at the end of the bench during the Nuggets' restart campaign on a full NBA deal.

    Dozier played just 11.1 minutes per contest while shuttling back and forth between the NBA and the G-League. In 21 games, he scored 4.1 points and added 1.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists with minimal contributions elsewhere. The outlook for Dozier on this team are less than sunny unless there's an injury crisis in front of him. Otherwise, he'll be off fantasy radars as he was in this abbreviated stint outside the top-400.