ESPN Stats & Information 397d

Winning Wolves face tough test in improved Warriors

The Minnesota Timberwolves have won five straight entering Wednesday's matchup (10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN/ESPN App) against the Golden State Warriors, who are in the midst of their own four-game winning streak.

Minnesota's five-game run is its longest since January 2009, and the last time the Wolves won six in a row in a single season was a nine-game streak to finish the 2003-04 season.

But the Warriors have had the Wolves' number of late, winning 23 of their 28 meetings since the start of the 2009-10 campaign. And they enter Wednesday's contest playing their best basketball of the season, particularly on defense.

Of course, offense remains the Warriors' calling card. Last season, Golden State finished with an offensive efficiency of 113.2, the highest mark by any team in the last 30 seasons. This year, that offensive efficiency is at 116.4 points per 100 possessions. Golden State’s offense has gotten better in every season under Steve Kerr.

Most of the NBA world has been eager to claim Kevin Durant as the Warriors' best player and push Stephen Curry aside. But it’s been clear early this season that Curry is the team's most important player. When Curry is on the floor, the Warriors score 123.5 points per 100 possessions. When he is off the floor, that drops to 99.7 (lowest on team). Overall, Golden State is 30.1 points better per 100 possessions with Curry on the floor. That is more than six points better than Durant.

Curry is currently averaging 28.3 points per 36 minutes, which would be the second-highest mark in his career, trailing only the 31.7 he posted during his MVP campaign in 2015-16.

The star guard figures to pose a big problem for the Timberwolves, who have the fourth-worst defensive efficiency in the league despite their 7-3 record.

The good news, however, is that during its win streak, Minnesota has seen a big improvement on defense. Over the five-game stretch, the team has had the league’s 13th-ranked defense after posting the worst efficiency rating through the first five games of the season.

Despite the Wolves' recent success, star center Karl-Anthony Towns has struggled of late. Outside of a 31-point, 12-rebound game against the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday, Towns' last three games have been a far cry from his early production.

Other Timberwolves notes:

  • Minnesota has been held under 100 points only once this season (scored 99 in the opening game) and currently has the league’s sixth-most efficient offense.

  • The traditional starting unit of Jeff Teague, Jimmy Butler, Andrew Wiggins, Towns and Taj Gibson has outscored opponents by 48 points while on the floor together. That is the fourth-highest scoring differential for a five-man lineup in the NBA this season.

  • A win in Wednesday's game would make Minnesota the first team to beat Golden State at least once in each of the last three seasons.

  • Towns and Wiggins have given the Warriors problems, as both have averaged better than 20 points per game over the past two seasons in their meetings.

Other Warriors notes:

  • Golden State already has seven games this season with 30-plus assists. No other team has more than two such games. Over the last four seasons, the Warriors have 128 games with 30-plus assists. The next closest is the Atlanta Hawks with 46.

  • Last season, Klay Thompson, Curry and Durant each averaged at least 25 points per game against the Timberwolves. They were one of three sets of teammates to all average at least 25 PPG versus an opponent.

  • Durant has five career 40-point games against the Timberwolves, which is more than any player in history.

  • The Warriors have used the same starting lineup in every game this season. They are one of four teams to do so (Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Oklahoma City Thunder).

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