The 3-1 Golden State Warriors are in ‘Sota to take on the 3-1 Timberwolves tonight at Target Center. Tip is at 7 P.M. CST. You can see it on FSN or NBA League Pass.
The Dubs are the darlings of the NBA so far this season, and it’s easy to see why: They’re third in the League in points per game, and are first in assists per game. They have fun players in Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, who can fill it up from pretty much anywhere inside the 612 area code. Andre Iguodala makes big dunks, and–this is a first for the Warriors–defends well. David Lee flows to the tune of about 20 & 10 nightly. Andrew Bogut isn’t Andris Biedrins. (Eds. Note: Bogut also belongs on that “Dark Alley” team that was occasionally referenced in Grantland’s NBA Preview marathon, with fellow toughs Lance Stephenson and David West, inter alia.)
The starting lineups should look like this:
PG – Ricky Rubio vs. Stephen Curry
SG – Kevin Martin vs. Klay Thompson
SF – Corey Brewer vs. Andre Iguodala
PF – Kevin Love vs. David Lee
C – Zod Pekovic vs. Andrew Bogut
Yes, it will be a high-scoring game.
Can Anyone Stop Klay Thompson?
Do you see what I see in the starting lineup? By which I mean, “did you notice that Kevin Martin is likely to be matched up with Klay Thompson tonight?”
This should worry the Wolves. Kevin Martin has shot the ball extremely well in the last two games after suffering a rough patch to start the season, but he has done nothing so far to dismiss expectations that he would be a liability on defense. Apart from James Harden, Thompson is the toughest shooting guard matchup in the NBA. Thompson , who leads the Warriors in scoring at 22.5 points per game and is shooting a white-hot 60% from the field, will be an especially tough cover for Martin: Martin struggles to get around screens, contest treys, and stop dribble penetration; Thompson is among the best in the League at using screens, burying treys (52% so far this season, with obligatory sample-size caveat), and at effortlessly making mid-range shots off quick dribble penetrations to the elbow area.
Here’s a clip that shows Thompson’s repertoire, in this case displayed all within a single game–the Warriors’ win over the Spurs in Game 2 of last season’s Western Conference Semi-Finals, in which Klay went 8-9 from downtown.
We want to avoid this kind of thing in tonight’s tilt. Normally, the game plan would be to shift Corey Brewer onto Thompson, and that might be what the Wolves end up doing tonight. But that would mean shifting Martin onto Brewer’s man, Andre Iguodala, whose right bicep weighs roughly twice as much as K-Mart, which presents another matchup problem. And putting Ricky Rubio on Thompson is hardly an option, as Rubio will have his hands full and then some with Super Shooter Stephen Curry. Rick Adelman won’t find much help on the bench, either: Backup shooting guard Alexey Shved played what was certainly some of the worst defense in NBA history in the second quarter of Monday’s game at Cleveland, when Cavs reserve C.J. Miles torched Shved over and over in embarrassing fashion until Rick Adelman was forced to bench Shved for the rest of the game.
What all of this means is that the Wolves’ defensive rotations will have to be sharper and faster tonight than in any game they’ve played thus far. Unlike the games against the Thunder and Knicks, Minnesota won’t have the luxury of being able to double off of a Reggie Jackson or Iman Shumpert type. The Warriors just don’t have the same kind of weak link as those teams.
Random (Punch) Drunkenness
A couple things:
- Leading the break: The Warriors do other cool things, too, like having their bigs push the ball in transition. Ethan Sherwood-Strauss describes it in more detail here. The bottom line? It opens up shot opportunities for Curry and Thompson.
- Sikma reincarnate? One random tidbit about tonight’s game that amuses me is David Lee. Specifically, that Lee’s old school game reminds a bit of Jack Sikma’s, Punch-Drunk’s incumbent favorite assistant now that Bill Bayno is in Toronto. [Eds. Note: Style aside, Lee’s and Sikma’s numbers are eerily similar too. (See here and here.) Let’s hope Lee doesn’t pick up Big Jack’s three-point range, or he’ll really be a force to be reckoned with, at least on offense.]
To distract our collective minds from Klay Thompson nightmare scenarios, here’s some Sikma funk to pregame to.
Enjoy the tilt.