Game 56 Preview: Golden State Warriors vs Minnesota Timberwolves

Golden State Warriors (20-32) vs Minnesota Timberwolves (25-30)

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Last game: Minnesota: L, 116-108 vs Sacramento, Golden State: L, 98-94 vs Memphis

Kevin Love and David Lee square off tonight in Minnesota.

Kevin Love and David Lee square off tonight in Minnesota.

The Wolves struggled through the end of their road trip, falling to the Kings on Monday. Kevin Love led Minnesota with 23 points, but Tyreke Evans went for 24 points and seven assists. Worse for the Wolves: Luke Ridnour badly sprained his ankle in the 3rd quarter, leaving the desperately understaffed point guard position to rookie Malcolm Lee for the foreseeable future.

I’m not suspicious that the Warriors lost to the Grizzlies. After all, it’s not like another team has their protected pick, and if the Warriors get the seventh pick or higher, Golden State won’t have a first round selection in this loaded draft. And it’s not like the Warriors led for most of the game while Memphis played like crap, then somehow managed to outcrap the Grizz in the final quarter.

Wait, that is what happened? Hmm. Something smells fishy.

The Key Questions

#1. Will the Warriors actively try to lose this game?

I mean. They won’t be jacking up shots from half-court and allowing the Wolves to turn the game into a layup line. Well, they might do the latter: Golden State’s defense is shoddy, 5th worst in defensive efficiency.

But the Warriors have clearly given up on this season, and since Utah owns their draft pick unless it’s in the top seven, the Wolves have a real opportunity to be handed a game tonight.

#2. How will Malcolm Lee perform with real minutes?

Hardwood Paroxysm posted a nice piece (complete with video) about Malcolm Lee’s opportunity to show his worth. In the videos are a couple of nice examples of the on ball defense Lee brings to the table. He moves his feet very well, and has shown a good feel for the point guard position on offense.

Obviously, Timberwolves fans wish that Ridnour and Rubio were both around to take Lee’s minutes away from him, but this will be an excellent opportunity to see what he can do, especially defensively.

#3. How many minutes can Pek handle?

Pekovic was apparently champing at the bit to come back from his injury, but Adelman was reluctant to allow him minutes until the Wolves could establish that game time couldn’t hurt him. Apparently, it can’t.

Of course, that really depends on how you define “hurt.” Did Pekovic worsen his injury? No. Bone spurs in your ankles do not, by all reports, get worse when tread on. But Pekovic was clearly still hurting against Sacramento, unless he was grimacing because the Wolves were losing to Sacramento. That would be utterly understandable.

The Key Matchups

We already covered Malcolm Lee’s opportunity to start, but he will be opposite another rookie tonight in Charles Jenkins. While the game itself may not be representative of either team’s potential (Minnesota because of injuries, Golden State because of this), the matchup might well be competitive as two young players get an opportunity to show their abilities.

Kevin Love will be defending David Lee, who is averaging his second highest points per 36 minutes of his career, but also the lowest effective field goal percentage. Love also will probably spend some time defending Jeremy Tyler (haha) who started (HAHA) and played 30 minutes against the Grizzlies (HAHAHA).

Richard Jefferson has been coming off the bench for the Warriors, and has averaged 15 points on 55% shooting this season. He may cause some problems for the Wolves.

The Outlook

If Minnesota loses tonight, we will know the injuries are really getting to them. The Wolves were a better team than the Warriors before Golden State began intentionally losing a lot of games, and Minnesota should continue to be so thanks to Kevin Love.

The Wolves won’t make the playoffs this year, but at least a soft schedule here at the end might allow them to end the season on a good note.

Game starts at 7 on Fox Sports North

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