Wolves 111, Warriors 95: Wolves Win in Shenzhen

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The Wolves defeated the Golden State Warriors early Thursday morning, though only technically. The final score of the first of two NBA Global Games preseason games (a few regular season games will be played in Mexico City in early December and in London in January) ended up 111-95 in favor of the Wolves, but 1. the fourth quarter, in which the Wolves’ bench “destroyed” the Warriors rookies/cuts, was very preseason-y and, thusly, was played at 1.5x speed on my parent’s TiVo(!) and 2. the Wolves trailed by two after the three quarters that “mattered.”

In typical Warriors’ fashion, Golden State got off to a blistering start, frying the Wolves with a blitzkrieg of threes and back cuts. On the night (morning?), the Dubs starters combined to connect on nine of their 18 threes and Kevin Durant lead all scorers with 20 points. All things considered, the first three quarters where very Warriorsy with Golden State seemingly dominating from the word go, despite the score being relatively close, ready to crush the opponent’s windpipe once the fourth quarter begins.

The Wolves suffered many breakdowns in communication on defense throughout the game, but particularly early on, with many Warrior points coming off simple back cuts, not always with an accompanying screen. Warriors were left open and/or lost, rotations were a half-second late, help wasn’t provided; perhaps the Wolves will be able to get away with these lapses on many nights throughout the regular season, but against the upper echelon teams, especially in the West, the defensive effort they put forth tonight won’t fly. It’s only preseason and the Wolves are clearly still gelling (and the Warriors are the Warriors, so only so much can be done to stop them), but until the little things get cleaned up it’s fair to question how the Wolves will perform against the cream of the crop.

Similarly, the Wolves offense was…off. The ball seemed to stick in people’s hands and the off-ball players often moved as if they were in tar at the start of sets. How much of this was caused by the Wolves’ lack of experience playing with each other or by the Warriors playing actual NBA regular season defense is up for (a relatively pointless at this point) debate, but there were a few positives.

Overall, the Wolves shot 12/26 from three. Karl-Anthony Towns, who connected on two of his three attempts, continued to display an effortlessness from deep that is truly uncommon for a man his size. On one particular attempt, Towns pump-faked a charging Draymond Green causing him to fly arms and legs a-blazin’ towards the Warriors’ bench and then proceeded to cooly take a gather dribble and nail a corner three.

Jeff Teague looked like the point guard Tom Thibodeau was envisioning during the second half, hitting a couple of threes and utilizing his quickness to his advantage. Jimmy Butler finished with a cool 16/4/5 on only six field goal attempts in 26 minutes. Andrew Wiggins blew past Kevin Durant on a baseline drive for a thunderous dunk and looked more comfortable within the offense.

As for the negatives, many of Towns’ drives were simply out of control; Shabazz Muhammad, for better or worse, played like the black hole he often is; Jamal Crawford continued to struggle, connecting on only one of five shots. In short, the Wolves still have plenty of growing to do on both sides of the ball.

For the most part, Tom Thibodeau and his staff managed this game as if it were a regular season game. The lineup was limited to 10 players (the starters plus Crawford, Nemanja Bjelica, Gorgui Dieng, Muhammad, and Tyus Jones) and each starter logged at least 25 minutes. Had the Warriors played their starters in the fourth, I’d imagine Thibs would’ve thrown his main guys out there for a few more minutes. Perhaps of note, Jamal Crawford saw some minutes functioning as the point guard, both with bench units and with a majority of the starters on the court; don’t be surprised if this continues into the regular season.

Overall, this game was encouraging if only because it exposed where the Wolves need to continue developing in ways that could only be against a top-flight team. The defense still needs to tighten up, the players still need to figure out how to play with each other on offense, lineups still need to be determined. Luckily, there is still plenty of time.

Notes:

  • Taj Gibson took three more corner threes tonight: he made one, missed one, and was fouled on the other (and made two of three free throws). I won’t believe it until I see it on the regular come mid-October and beyond, but is it possible that Taj Gibson, #sniper, is here to stay?
  • For the majority of the game, Thibs had Jimmy Butler on Klay Thompson and Andrew Wiggins on Kevin Durant. It’ll be interesting to see how the Wolves tackle these matchups when the games matter. Wiggins didn’t do terribly on KD, but you can only do so much when you’re defending one of the games’ premier scorers.
  • The Wolves and Warriors got into two kerfuffles last night, one between Bazz and JaVale McGee and one between Dieng and David West. You can look at this in one of two ways: 1. The Wolves aren’t afraid to back down to a fight; they have a new found grit and won’t take anything from anybody; or 2. JaVale McGee and David West? That was incredibly dumb of them. I mean, McGee’s reach spans the galaxies and David West is David Freaking West! I don’t care how tough or quick you are with a 1-2 combo. You lose both of those fights 10 times out of 10.
  • The Wolves play their third and final preseason game against the Warriors on Sunday, October 8th at 6 a.m. The game can be seen on NBATV.
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4 Responsesso far.

  1. Tom says:

    I only saw the expanded highlighted version of the game, but it looked like the starters had their hands full with the starters of GS. They got caught napping on back cuts and rotations seemed slow and allowing GS to score easily. Jimmy Butler again looked like a player that could have replaced Thompson on the Warriors and KAT had a fun three pointer which was preceded with a beautiful pass to Jimmy.
    Teague looked like a much slower player than when he guarded Ball in the first preseason game. Could be Steph is quicker than Ball, but he didn’t make me feel good about the Rubio trade as Curry had no problems scoring.
    Tyus actually looked stronger than Jeff and the second team was the difference in the game. Now, part of that is the smaller bench Thibs uses (why he doesn’t see Melo or the other guys in situations like this, is a mystery to me.) and that Kerr pretty much cleared his bench. I like the second team and Baz seems committed to doing more. I actually saw him make a pass and deflect a pass.
    I hope that during the year, the starters are more comfortable with each other and can move the ball like the W’s. They are going to be nearly impossible to stop this year, if they pass like that.

  2. pyrrol says:

    –In the first run of the starters I found myself saying, “Welcome to the West, Teague.” Don’t let the scoring and 2 made threes fool you. He had one assist and a team worst -6 (the next lowest was Wiggins at -1). He was not good. Lucas mentioned that our starting offense looked pretty stiff, with poor ball movement. This started with Teague. Tom mentioned that Teague looked slow. Like I said after the LA game, Teague is not as fast as he looks like he should be (and doesn’t have great size to make up for it like Rubio). This game exposed it more because Curry isn’t a slow, gangly, 6’6″ rookie PG. The West is stacked with good PGs. One hopes this doesn’t become an issue against Teague. A lot of Teague’s game is making some shots, but we’ve got that on the roster already. I already miss the watchability of a Rubio led offense (for long stretches our offense was dull to watch in addition to not that effective). This is a meaningless preseason game in China, but I’m sweating just a bit.

    –On the other hand, Towns kept us afloat in this game early and looks good. Wiggins looks really uncomfortable in his new role even though it should suit him (he’s not a natural go to, finisher type guy). Wiggins got a little better in his second stint, but he’s not playing like a max player… Towns is playing well. A little out of control from time to time, but otherwise very impressive and a bright spot.

    –The bench looked encouraging. Was this because they were playing against the 3rd tier of GS sometimes? Perhaps, but they still were why we didn’t get beat by 10-15. Particularly, Tyus looked like our ‘fun PG you look forward to watching’ now with Rubio gone, as he actually kept the ball moving and ran the offense better than Teague. Just one meaningless game, but it was both a moment where I was proud of Tyus’ skill and concerned about Teague issues that seemed to have been unforeseen by our staff.

    –Crawford made only one tough shot, but he looked better. He was a decent 2nd ball handling option and made a good defensive play. I’m not worried he’s done just yet…

    –Back to PG’s for a sec, Teague’s ball handling is also not that great. Tyus and Crawford both seemed to have better ball handling skills in this game. Teague loves to drive, but in this game his kick outs were lame, and he hoisted some pretty crappy shots after driving a lane that closed on him and not being sure what else to do. I expect this is just rust and will improve because I think he has a good driving instinct.

    –I don’t know why the Gibson three thing won’t continue. He’s not going to impress from there, but he can hit a few and spread the attention. I continue to enjoy him as the starting PF.

    –Some talk about our added toughness. Why did we get into scuffles with West and McGee? Because they are kinda whiney dopes? But I am hoping for more attitude this season and it was fun to see. Butler has a resolve that is like another dimension from Wiggins. This is why Wiggins will never be great and maybe not even worth the max he’s just let sit on the table. This is a pretty out there conspiracy theory, but does Wiggins let the contract sit there because he wants to see how far down the banana ladder he goes and how that feels? I get the feeling that despite not really earning it he thinks he’s a high option, high usage player and might want to play for a team that sees him that way (this is not going to be a winning team…). That’s a pretty out there theory… Overall, it’s early and I’m not sure what to think, just some snap observations.

  3. pyrrol says:

    Forgot to mention that Bjelica looked healthy and impressive. He was particularly good on D, which isn’t really what people expect, but he’s a good player all over the court when not crushed by lack of confidence.

  4. jmndodge says:

    It’s to early to be down on any of the players… Teague is replacing my favorite – he is a different point guard, but I’ll reserve criticism of him until he proves unable to run the offense. That Jones is looking good is a great thing – Gibson looks like he might be another KG type mentor for KAT – Butler/Wiggins will have to figure out the best way to be effective in the wing, but both as great players they should get it done. Dieng is most natural at C – Bjelica played very well – Jones/Dieng seemed to get things done – and Crawford might be just what Bazz needs to channel that energy and athleticism into effective play. I wasn’t happy with all the changes – still wish much success to Zach/Kris/Ricky – but this team looks good. G.S. and being away might be just what this team needs. 2nd line success against G.S. running their 2nd/3rd lines – and our first string working against the best in the league (yes coming up a bit short – but playing against the best is the way to improve.

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