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Now, I don’t think I’m telling tales out of school here when I say that most folks will be focused on college basketball rather than the pros today. Personally, I don’t give a darn whose bubbles burst or who gets in or out. All hogswallop to me.
I care about the Warriors and the Timberwolves! Two NBA teams that are most certainly not tanking right now, playing a good ol’ game of professional basketball, where totals are in the 220s, not the 120s. Here are the things you need to know about Sunday’s Western Conference matinee of Warriors (-5, 225) at Wolves. — Mark Gallant
1. The Wolves Need Towns to Play Huge
No Steph Curry, no Jimmy Butler. So the Wolves have only Karl-Anthony Towns and the Warriors have only Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.
The Warriors have the ability to never need to double team anyone, but Towns is going to see a healthy amount of doubles today. There’s a huge difference in doubling out of necessity and doubling from a position of strength. With Butler out, and with how poor the Wolves are at generating and making 3-point shots, the Warriors will attack Towns with swiping hands. Don’t be surprised if he ends up with a huge usage rate and a good box score line, but an inefficient one with turnovers thrown in.
Any minute Derrick Rose plays tomorrow in which Minnesota isn’t destroyed is a win.
Taj Gibson will frustrate Draymond Green, but Klay Thompson should have about a million open transition 3s if the Warriors push the ball, which is a coin flip. Minnesota needs this one; a loss puts them on the Western Conference playoff bubble in the loss column. — Matt Moore
2. Curry’s Effect on the Warriors Is Likely Undervalued
A lot will be made of the Warriors’ offensive struggles without Steph. And those are real: Per Cleaning the Glass, the Dubs’ offense has been 15.2 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor this season, one of the most drastic marks in the NBA. The Warriors increase their effective field-goal rate by 6.4% (99th percentile), and they shoot 5.0% more free throws (93rd percentile). They take a lot more efficient shots, increasing their shot frequency at the rim by 3.8% and from the 3-point line by 8.9%. He’s important to the offense.
But that difference may not matter if they can’t get right defensively. Last game against a Blazers team that isn’t exactly a juggernaut offensively, the Warriors allowed 131.5 points/100; that’s one of the worst defensive performances of the season. The Wolves are without Jimmy Butler, but they’re still excellent offensively with Towns, and if last game’s version of the Dubs defense shows up, they’ll be in trouble yet again. — Bryan Mears
3. Teague Still Underpriced in DFS.
Jeff Teague has the best individual matchup in this game, owning an Opponent Plus/Minus of +4.39 on DraftKings. No one on the Timberwolves has seen a larger bump in usage in games without Jimmy Butler this season that Teague, who has averaged 36.76 DraftKings points per 36 minutes with Butler off the court this season. He leads all PGs on the early slate with nine Pro Trends on FanDuel. — Matt LaMarca
4. The Dubs Bounce Back Well From ATS Losing Streaks
The Warriors are 11-4 straight-up and 6-9 against the spread this season when Curry doesn’t play but Durant does (both didn’t play in a November loss to the Kings). Durant is averaging 29.6 PPG on 20.5 field-goal attempts and 50.2% shooting without Curry; he’s scored 40 points in two of his past three games without Steph.
The Dubs have dropped five consecutive games ATS heading into this road test in Minnesota. Under Steve Kerr, the Warriors have played on an ATS losing streak of five games or more six times and are 6-0 SU and 4-2 ATS their next time out. Golden State is outscoring its opponents by 23.5 PPG off an extended ATS losing streak. — Evan Abrams
Photo via Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports