On early Sunday morning in Minnesota time and Sunday night in Shanghai, China, where the game was played, the Timberwolves were demolished by the Golden State Warriors in the second and final game of their overseas preseason tour. After an encouraging first quarter that saw them leading 44-36, things turned in GSW’s direction and never stopped.
An avalanche of three-pointers fell on the Wolves’ heads in the end of the second quarter and then again in the first half of the third quarter, which effectively put the game out of reach.
Green hit a three with 3:42 to go in the second, Curry hit one with 3:18, Thompson with 2:50 and again with 2:22. If you’re counting at home, that’s 4 treys and 12 points in 1:20 of action. Green hit another with 0:46 to play in the half.
A couple minutes into the third quarter, they went off again. Steph hit a three with 9:47 left in the third, then Klay at 9:25, Curry at 8:39, Klay at 7:33, Steph at 6:57, and again at 6:30. Durant capped off the run with one more trey with 5:47 to play in the third quarter. That’s 7 threes in a 4-minute stretch.
When that happens in Warriors games — their dynasty’s signature “thing” — it’s difficult to know just how preventable it was, if at all. Of course Coach Thibs will review the game tape and have a precise explanation for each three-pointer allowed — and the Wolves will have plenty of time to fix their mistakes before their regular season opener (at San Antonio on October 18) — but when Curry, Thompson, and now Durant start launching transition three after transition three and everything goes in, their opponent begins to look and (and probably feel) helpless while the crowd is wildly entertained.
The good part of the Wolves performance was the first quarter. They put a 44-spot on one of the league’s best defenses. It’s a little scary to consider that they needed to score so much just to keep pace with Golden State, but encouraging to see that it was possible, if even for just a stretch of time. The Wolves offense is a work in progress as the three starting newcomers get acquainted with Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. They are not running a lot of true pick-and-roll yet, but seem to initiate action with post-ups — many through Jimmy Butler — and try to draw double teams from that one-on-one action before passing and cutting their way into a good shot, many of which seem to be generating free throw attempts. With Butler operating out of the mid post, the Wolves often have their positions inverted with Towns behind the three-point line. They should be able to do a lot of things to challenge opposing coaches. It isn’t easy to commit a defender to KAT who can reliably stay with him out to 24 feet.
In the second quarter, the Wolves bench came in and was faced with the difficult task of containing a staggered GSW second unit that included both Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, along with Andre Iguodala. They did reasonably well to tread water, benefitting from some clever defensive plays from Tyus Jones, and all-around gritty play by Nemanja Bjelica, who did a great job on Durant. While things eventually fell apart, as mentioned at the outset of this post, the bench play was encouraging. Tyus seems to have solid command of the second-unit offense while making helpful plays on D, and Bjelica’s defense looks like a possible revelation.
It’s hard to say a whole lot about the second half beyond the Warriors three barrage and the Wolves failing to keep up their early-game, unsustainable pace that resulted in part from drawing tons of fouls. Andrew Wiggins is the player that most people are paying attention to right now, and it’s clear that he will be adjusting to a different role. Jimmy Butler seems more than happy to set up Wiggins (and everyone else) with scoring opportunities, but just because Wig will get shots doesn’t mean that he’ll have the same role. He will not be afforded as many early touches to create his own shot. Instead he will need to be able to convert theoretically easier shots — like standing spot-up threes — without having had his hands on the leather as much as he did in his first few seasons. Of course Wolves fans hopes that he relishes the opportunity to score more easily and apply the newly available energy on defense and the boards. Whether that happens remains to be seen. Wig hit a couple threes in this game, and also scored easily off of a well-timed cut when Butler broke down the defense and found him.
Both coaches emptied their benches for a good chunk of the fourth quarter and the Warriors ultimately won 142-110. The Wolves are now done playing games and will practice in Minneapolis until the season opener against the Spurs. That game is a week and a half out. Between now and then, the big issue is the Wiggins contract — specifically, whether he will sign it. Everybody fully expects it to happen, but the delay is confusing.
In any event, we will have some good preseason content in the days leading up to the opener, so stay tuned and Go Wolves.