By Huey Bergstrom
(MINNEAPOLIS) The Warriors face a pivotal road game Thursday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves to start their final, four game, road trip of the year.
After a demoralizing loss Tuesday night to the streaking Mavericks, the Dubs' chances of a sixth seed are all but done. However, their playoff chances are still very much alive.
The upcoming four road games are all against below .500 teams which gives Golden State a good chance to finish the season above .500 if the defense shows up as it did last week.
The opportunity for redemption will not be without struggle as the Warriors will likely be playing without Kelly Oubre Jr. who was listed as doubtful Thursday morning. That leaves a big hole on both sides of the floor for Kent Bazemore and Andrew Wiggins to fill. Oubre Jr. has played incredibly well over the past two weeks, showing prowess on the offensive end to match his defensive intensity.
Since Oubre Jr. is out, Wiggins will be critical to a potential Dubs win. His three-point shooting percentage has been good this year but he's failed to deliver clutch buckets and has struggled to find his role as Oubre and Bazemore have played better. Wiggins will be on the attack tonight which will likely help the Dubs maintain high production on offfense.
There's an intriguing storyline surrounding the point guards as the Timberwolves two floor generals, Ricky Rubio and D'Angelo Russell, both have ties to the Warriors MVP point. Rubio was drafted just ahead of Curry in the 2009 draft by the Wolves (wonder if they regret that choice at all?) and Russell was a part of the ill-fated dual point experiment Golden State tried a season ago.
Curry will likely be defending both of them at points tonight and Rubio has played impressive defense this season despite the Wolves faults there as a team. To Russell's credit, the man can score. Not especially consistently but when he's on, he's on. That could pose some problems if Curry is held up on defense by the ever grabby Rubio.
Interesting backcourt storylines aside, as usual the key for the Warriors will be defense without fouling, especially because of Wolves bigman Karl Anthony-Towns. He's put up astounding numbers this season despite the Wolves underwhelming record (24.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 1.3 blocks per game while shooting 39.1% from distance).
If Draymond Green and Kevon Looney can disrupt KAT and make him speed up his gameplay a bit, the Warriors can force turnovers and run the floor, which tends to lead to victory. If KAT gets to his spots and heats up early, it could be a long day for the Dubs.
Green and Looney will be critical for the Warriors on defense and Wiggins will be crucial on offense. As usual this season, look for Curry to come out swinging as he typically plays well against the Wolves throughout his career.