Programming note: Warriors-Timberwolves coverage starts today at 4pm with Warriors Pregame Live on CSN Bay Area, and streaming live right here.
The Warriors continue their quest for rediscovery Friday night, when they have the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center in downtown Minneapolis.
The Warriors (52-12) have lost three of their last five games, including Wednesday night, when they fell apart in the fourth quarter against the Boston Celtics. The Kevin Durant injury hangover is real, and the Warriors are struggling to make the adjustment.
After foundering for much of the season, the Timberwolves (26-37) may be onto something. They have, for the first time this season, won five of six games, including the last three in a row. It has them among five other teams vying for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
Warriors by 5.5
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Warriors big men vs. Karl-Anthony Towns. KAT is a member of the NBA’s elite-big-men-under-25 movement. Only 21, he leads all centers in scoring (24.1 points per game) and double-doubles (48). In their attempt to contain him, the Warriors will use a variety of defenders, from Zaza Pachulia to Draymond Green to JaVale McGee to David West. The goal is to prevent Towns from putting his signature on the game.
Warriors: G Shaun Livingston (rest) and F Kevin Durant (L knee sprain, tibial bone bruise) are listed as out. C Damian Jones is on assignment with Santa Cruz of the NBA Development League.
Timberwolves: G/F Brandon Rush (illness) is listed as probable. G Zach LaVine (L knee surgery) and C Nikola Pekovic (Chronic R ankle pain) are listed as out.
Warriors: 6-4. Timberwolves: 6-4.
The Warriors have 22 of the last 26 overall and 10 in a row in Minneapolis.
THREE THINGS TO WATCH
CONTRAST IN SIZES: The Warriors prefer to play small because that’s where they have the most success. The Wolves, however, are long and athletic. The season-ending injury to LaVine moved 6-7, 215-pound Brandon Rush into starting lineup; he’s expected to play. Up front are 6-8, 200-pound Andrew Wiggins, 6-11 Gorgui Dieng and Towns, who is 7 feet. Unable to match such length, the Warriors will be forced to rely on scrap and getting into transition.
THE TRIPLES GAME: The Warriors, who rank third in 3-point shooting percentage, are slumping: 30.7 percent over the last seven games. The T-Wolves have been one of the league’s worst teams beyond the arc all season, shooting 34.9 percent to rank 22nd. With Minny ranking 15th in 3-point defense, this is an opportunity for the Warriors to find their splash game.
THE PACE GAME: Though the T-Wolves are young, coach Tom Thibodeau has them playing mostly deliberate basketball; they rank 25th in pace. That helps keep games close. The Warriors want to run whenever possible, regardless of circumstances, so it’ll be up to Stephen Curry and the bench to push tempo in hopes of lulling Minny out of its comfort zone.