The road trip continued tonight on the left coast as the Wolves took on the Golden State Warriors for the second time in 4 games. Tonight will also be the first time the Warriors get to see Kevin Love in actions. The Wolves entered the game with a huge advantage in the post like they have all season. They also entered the game facing a huge disadvantage in the back court, which has been the biggest nemesis for the Wolves all season. The story of the game was what would win out, the Wolves front court or the Warriors back court?
The Wolves shooting continued to be a problem to start the game. The Wolves were 3-15, 6:11 into the first quarter. It is fun to have Kevin Love back in the starting lineup, but so far in his 3 games back, his complaining to the official’s during game action for non-foul calls has been placing the Wolves in a lot of 4 on 5 situations on the defensive end. If Love really wants to help his team, he will need to do so by just playing defense. Malcolm Lee has been a nice surprise so far in his starting role on the defensive end. His offensive game is just not there, but with time that will hopefully come along. If the Wolves would have relied strictly on their shooting in the 1st quarter, it would have been a very ugly start to the game. Due to great defense (forcing 5 turnovers) and offensive rebounding (4) the Wolves were able to squeak out a 2 point lead with an 18-16 advantage after 1 quarter. The Wolves shot a woeful 29% (7-24 and 0-6 from 3) in the 1st quarter. It was however, a great sign to see the Wolves start the game with a 4-4 effort from the free throw line.
Rick Adelman went to his bench to start the 2nd quarter, with Greg Stiemsma, Alexey Shved, Josh Howard, Dante Cunningham and JJ Berea. The second unit continued to maintain the lead and hold a 2 point advantage on 30% shooting. At 9:51 to play in the 2nd quarter there was a Derrick Williams sighting. This was the first action DWill had seen in 2 games. Something the Wolves second unit has shown to thrive off of is moving the ball and getting assists. The bench had 4 assists in almost 6 minutes of play in the 2nd quarter, while the starting unit had 4 in the entire 1st half. The 2nd unit was able to get a lead all the way up to 11 at one point on a 12-2 run; they did it with hustle plays and ball movement. JJ got out of forcing up shots and started to do what he can do, and that is create shots for teammates by driving the lane and drawing in defenders so he can kick the ball to open teammates. The real story was Alexey Shved. He has been great other times; it is whether he can do it consistently or not that remains a question. At 4:22 the Warriors were able to cut the lead down to 4, and a Rick Adelman time out gave him the opportunity to get his starting big men back on the floor. The Wolves bench was good with their time on the floor. How good? Every player on the bench was able to net a plus number. That was 6 players with a plus rating. The starters only had one, AK-47 with a +2. An interesting guard combo of JJ and Alexey got playing time on the floor with Pek, Love and Kirilenko to finish off the 2nd quarter and that unit hung on for a 51-47 lead heading into the half.
The Wolves managed to get their shooting all of the way up to 42.9% on 21-49 shooting in the 1st half. The defensive play of the Wolves was the big advantage, as they forced the Warriors into 10 turn overs, and converted them into 15 fast break points. It was the Warriors backcourt again torching the Wolves for 30 of the Warriors 47 first half points. While it was great to see the Wolves shoot 7-8 for 87.5% from the free throw line, it was not as good as the 9-9 the Warriors had in the 1st half.
The Wolves started the 2nd half the same way they started the game with Pek, Love, Kirilenko, Lee and Ridnour on the floor. It was again the big men play of the Wolves that managed to keep the lead through the first 5 minutes of the 3rd quarter. Both teams really settled into their half-court game to in the 3rd quarter. As would be expected the Wolves managed to win this battle. When Golden State had the chance to run or shoot early in the shot clock they were able to capitalize. The Warriors also knew they had an advantage in the guard play; they tried to take advantage of it by running their offense through either David Lee or Harrison Barnes, allowing Warrior guards to lose defenders and find open areas to either hit jump shots or dribble once into the paint for an easy shot. As the 3rd quarter wound down it was still a battle of the Wolves big men vs. the Warriors guards. Through 3 quarters of play, the Wolves managed to hold onto a 4 point lead going into the 4th quarter up 74-70.
It was clear heading into the 4th quarter the Warriors offensive strategy was to use their guards ability beat the Wolves guards into the lane and draw the Wolves big men in on help coverage leaving a wide open Warrior on the base line to covert the open look. This was the same strategy the Warriors used in Minneapolis to beat the Wolves and was the same strategy they used tonight. The Wolves second unit got the first 5 minutes of play to start the 4th quarter. The Wolves again saw athletic guards beat them, which has been the case so far all season. The problem though is the Wolves again find themselves forcing things on the offensive side of the ball and start taking bad shots rather than running their offensive sets looking for good looks. Just like the last 4 games, opposing teams have used guard play to beat the Wolves. Just like the last 4 games the Wolves slowly saw the opposing team gather traction and open a lead in the 2nd half. Since the Wolves were only able to hit 12 baskets in the second half, they saw the Warriors gradually open up a lead and hold on to capture a 96-85 win extending the Wolves losing streak to 5.
The Wolves starting back court again tonight was unable to move the ball and get teammates involved. The Starting backcourt of Lee and Ridnour had 4 assists on the game. The bench guard combo of Shved and Berea had 15 assists on the game. The starting back court shot 1-9, while the bench back court shot 5-11.
Derrick Williams had a decent outing tonight. He shot the ball very well finishing the night on a 4-6 shooting for 10 points. It was signs of complacency on the defensive end that got him. While we have seen decent defensive outings at times, it’s still his inability to put forth a 100% effort every second he’s in the game.
The Wolves 3 point shooting was dreadful. Tonight they shot 18.5%. For the season the Wolves are 2nd to last in 3 point field goal percentage in the entire NBA.
The Wolves were able to limit their turnovers to 11, but were out rebounded 48-39 for the game. The Warriors starting back court outscored the Wolves starting backcourt 44-2. Actually the Warriors starting backcourt outscored all of the Minnesota guards 44-19.
The Wolves will get some rest before they travel to Sacramento to take on the Kings Tuesday at 9 CST.