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Wolves get a reminder about which team is the team to beat (it’s the Warriors)

It would be hard to be upset about Wednesday’s 125-101 loss to the Golden State Warriors. Seeing the Timberwolves play well on national television is always good but this current Warriors team is one of the greatest in NBA history.

There may not be a better shooting team in history. They have the next Ray Allen and the greatest shooter in league history and they’re not even the same player. On a night when Golden State was missing Kevin Durant, they proved they still have many ways to beat you. There’s a reason this team is top-3 in every shooting metric, first in assists per game, and the best at limiting turnovers.

If you give this team an inch, they take a foot. That’s exactly what they did against the Wolves on Wednesday.

Save for the third quarter, the Timberwolves did play the Warriors fairly close.

The Warriors started out slowly. In fact, the Wolves led 22-16 with 34 seconds to play in the first. But a defender failed to pick up Nick Young who hit an open 3-pointer. Andrew Wiggins then turned the ball over dribbling through traffic and that led to a Steph Curry trey. Suddenly, the game was tied heading into the second.

It’s not as if the Wolves played poorly; they won three of the four factors for the game. The four factors are effective field goal percentage, turnover percentage, offensive rebound percentage, and free throw to field goal attempt ratio. The Wolves managed to win three of those, with effective field goal percentage being the only Warriors advantage. Not being able to make shots against a team like the Warriors can leave you dead in the water.

Starting the game 0-for-8 from beyond the arc was a bad sign. Finishing the half 2-for-15 and down by one was encouraging but never going to cut it.  Klay Thompson went on to make 3-of-4 of his 3-pointers in the third and had 13 in the frame alone. The Timberwolves hit just 5-of-24 3-pointers and shot just 41 percent in the game. That’s not going to do it against the Warriors anytime but certainly not on the road.

The Timberwolves had a hot start to the season from deep. Given the lack of apparent shooters on the roster, it was fair to wonder if it was sustainable. Wednesday night did nothing to ease those concerns. It still remains to be seen if this was just a bad night or a team without shooters regressing to the mean. We’re going to have to wait longer to find out if this team can sustain its efficiency.

Early in the game, it seemed that Wiggins was going to keep his team in the game. He had eight points and four boards in the first, including a key putback that put them up by six. But that didn’t last. Wiggins had 11 points and two rebounds the rest of the way as the Warriors took him out of the game.

This Wolves team seems to be at its best with a balanced attack. Their most convincing wins haven’t come with one standout performance but with many players producing. All five starters reached double figures against the Warriors and Gorgui Dieng had eight points off of the bench. Against any other opponent, they don’t lose by 24 with that production. But the Warriors are a merciless juggernaut, pinpointing their competition’s weakness and exploiting that over and over.

The Durant-less Warriors turned the contest into a track meet. This challenged the Timberwolves’ transition defense not to break — and it did. Fastbreak points were even in the first half but the Warriors took a 23-2 edge in the second half. The Timberwolves won the turnover battle 19-14 but conceded 26 points off of those 14 turnovers. By not letting the Wolves’ defense get set, the Warriors managed to get many good looks throughout the night.

Losing to the Warriors is nothing to panic over. They are still clearly the toast of the NBA and favored to win their third title in four years. You would call it an opportunity on a night when a team is missing a player like Durant but not the Warriors. They still have Thompson, Curry, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguodola. They’re an unrelenting force that continues throwing weapons at you until they find the right one. Other teams have depth but no one has it quite like the Warriors do.

If the Timberwolves are truly the over .500 team that they’ve played like, they’ll be fine. The correct response to this game for the team would be to go into Phoenix on Saturday and assert their will on the Suns. The best teams in any sport have short memories and don’t get too high or low emotionally. Just as if they beat the Warriors by 24, you would hope the team would put it behind them and focus on the next game.

No game in the NBA is a guaranteed win but facing the 4-8 Suns potentially makes for a good rebound game.


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