Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:01 AM
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Game of the Night - Minnesota at Golden State (-11, 239), ESPN, 10:35 ET
Derrick Rose playing at an MVP level for even one night, especially right before this nationally televised matchup, serves to spice it up even more.
After scoring 50 points to fuel an upset of Utah despite the absence of starting guards Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague, Rose will return to his role off the bench as we get to see an experiment unfold. More accurately, said experiment is more fantasy than anything else.
How good can the Timberwolves be if they weren’t torn apart?
Butler, looking forward to a showcase game against the Warriors to build on his own personal momentum after shooting 6-for-7 from 3-point range in Monday’s 124-120 upset of the Lakers, still wants out. An upset of Golden State won’t change that.
Sooner than later, Minnesota will realize it has no other recourse but to strike a deal with the Rockets, Heat or some other team looking to bring Butler into the fold. At that point, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins will again return to being the franchise’s focal points, while Rose will look to continue his career resurgence as he takes aim at the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award.
The Timberwolves’ ceiling for this season will depend on what other pieces they can acquire in exchange for Butler, with making the playoffs as a No. 8 seed again on the high end of expectations. More likely, they’ll take a step backwards.
Butler’s work on the defensive end and the attention he commands should make life easier for teammates, which is why matchups like tonight become statement games for him. He wants to be viewed as the missing piece and aims to be paid that way too. This is probably his last shot at a lucrative long-term deal, which is why it cut him so deeply that Minnesota prioritized taking care of Wiggins and Towns over him despite his on-court importance.
Already this season, Butler has heard boos from fans at Target Center and ultimately turned those into MVP chants by helping take down Cleveland with a season-best 33 points in the home opener. He’s matched up with LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Giannis Antetokounmpo, DeMar DeRozan and Victor Oladipo. Add the Warriors’ big guns to the list tonight.
There’s no concern that Butler won’t bring the requisite intensity level for the Timberwolves to be successful despite the fact he’s not all in. It simply remains to be seen how Rose hits in since he’ll be asked to play a different role with Butler back in the mix but could also be forced to start since fellow point guards Jeff Teague (knee) and Tyus Jones (foot) are questionable.
Rose shot 19-for-31 and hit four 3-pointers in a game for the first time since 2015, helping him get wherever he wanted. He dribbled around more looking for his own shot a lot more than he’ll be able to tonight with Butler back, but there’s no question he can remain effective and continue taking steps forward despite the uncertainty under Tom Thibodeau prevailing for at least another night. He’s not going to be sneaking up on anybody, which serves to make this matchup all the more intriguing since there’s no chance the defending champs won’t be engaged as they take their home floor for Friday’s most attractive offering.
Through nine games, the Warriors have shown remarkable discipline so far since they admittedly get bored during the NBA’s regular season. The last team to chase a three-peat, the ’13-’14 Heat, started 4-3 despite LeBron Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in the mix.
The 2010-11 Lakers won their first eight before going 5-6 over their next 11. The ’01-’02 Lakers were the last team to succeed in their quest for three straight titles and opened 16-1, which was an improvement on how the two Michael Jordan-led Bulls three-peat closers opened their seasons, opening 9-4 and 8-7.
It’s tough to focus this early in the season, especially with a target on your back. The Warriors are devising ways to keep things fresh, taking turns getting one another going and celebrating how much fun it is to dominate peers.
Golden State put up a 92-point first half against Chicago on Monday to open the week in style despite playing the second of a back-to-back. Klay Thompson may have flirted with surpassing Kobe Bryant’s 81-point night as the largest scoring output since Wilt Chamberlain dropped 100 if Steve Kerr hadn’t pulled him after knocking down 14 3-pointers in just 26 minutes of action.
Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry lit up New York City’s gyms and have 10 games scoring 30 or more points between them. Draymond Green needed to play his way into shape after recovering from knee surgery by staying away from basketball-related activities over the summer but has made no secret of the fact he’s shooting for another Defensive Players of the Year award after being relegated to the All-Defensive second team by voters last season. Earning this season’s top honors would help him become eligible for the Super Max, so you know he’s dead serious about regaining the title of NBA’s top defender.
With new starting center Damian Jones and young pieces like Alfonzo McKinnie and Jacob Evans to help bring along, the Warriors are hoping that keeping things fresh will keep them interesting. So far, so good. Matchups like tonight’s and next week’s showdown with upstart Milwaukee should ensure they don’t get too complacent – at least until the marathon truly sets in.
L.A. Clippers (-3/217.5) at Orlando, 7:05 p.m. ET: Longtime Orlando resident Doc Rivers and his team got in late after a tough loss in Philadelphia, so this is a short turnaround for his Clippers, who got carved up by Joel Embiid regardless of who tried to defend him last night. Nikola Vucevic should be a better matchup for L.A., especially since Marcin Gortat should have fresh legs after barely playing last night, picking up four fouls in nine minutes. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is nursing a sore knee, so he’s questionable and would be missed since he’d be an ideal option to help guard Aaron Gordon.
Houston (-4/217.5) at Brooklyn, 7:35 p.m. ET: The Rockets have been dreadful thus far and will have to go without James Harden for at least one more game since he’s unlikely to play here due to a hamstring injury. The reigning MVP practiced on Thursday and is optimistic he’ll be able to return for Saturday’s game at the Bulls, but it’s going to be on Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony to help prevent a defeat here. The return of James Ennis III from his own hamstring issue should bump ‘Melo back to the bench and improve a defense that has looked brutal over the past week. Brooklyn will look to take advantage of Houston surrendering an NBA-worst 59 points per game in the paint, so this could be a good spot for Brooklyn’s Jarrett Allen to break out after a slow start.
Oklahoma City at Washington (-2.5/231), 8:05 p.m. ET, ESPN: Dwight Howard will finally debut with the Wizards but is still bothered by the buttocks injury that has kept him out and won’t be able to sit on the bench during periods where he’s not playing. Instead, he’ll lay on the floor like Larry Bird and Steve Nash often used to. There’s no word on a minutes restriction yet, but Washington should be at full strength with Markieff Morris expected back from a concussion and Kelly Oubre, Jr. working after dealing with the flu. The Thunder won in Charlotte despite Paul George shooting 4-for-20 and will have him in the lineup despite a nerve issue in his left foot he’s been dealing with for weeks. Alex Abrines and Dennis Schroder helped bail out George by pouring in 46 points off the bench and should play large roles here as well. Scott Brooks is 2-2 with the Wizards against OKC, which he coached from ’07-’15, serving all but one of those years in the head seat.
Indiana (-7/212.5) at Chicago, 8:05 p.m. ET: The Pacers were blown out by double-digits in their first two road games but have won their last three. They’ve lost six of seven at the United Center but are favored here and hope forward Domantas Sabonis can build on a 12-for-12 effort from the field at the Knicks on Wednesday. The Bulls played arguably their best game of the season in coming a Paul Millsap tip-in away from pulling an upset of Denver and will be looking for consistency from rookie Wendell Carter, Jr., who finished with 25 points, eight boards and five assists while taking 21 shots in a breakout performance.
New York at Dallas (-6.5/216.5), 8:35 p.m. ET: The Knicks have seen the ‘under’ prevail in five of their last seven games and are playing hard for David Fizdale despite a depleted group. New York will have its work cut out for it attempting to slow down a Mavs squad that has scored 100 or more points in all their games but has surrendered 116.6 points per game and dropped five straight. New York is 0-3 on the road and may not have top defender Frank Ntilikina, which means this could wind up becoming a shootout between Tim Hardaway, Jr. and rookie Luka Doncic.
Memphis at Utah (-7.5/205), 9:05 p.m. ET: The Grizzlies have won five of six since being hammered in their season opener, which includes a 92-84 win over these Jazz in Salt Lake City. Utah is the only team with a winning record that the Griz have defeated this season since their other three victims are a combined 4-18, so it’s hard to get too excited over Memphis’ resurgence just yet, though it is great to see Mike Conley back. With Donovan Mitchell (hamstring) and Alec Burks (hand) sidelined, look for Jae Crowder and Dante Exum to play major roles next to veteran starters Ricky Rubio and Joe Ingles.
Toronto (-11/226) at Phoenix, 10:05 p.m. ET: The Suns have seen rookies Deandre Ayton and Elie Okobo featured over the past week, but life should get easier for everyone with Devin Booker returning from a hamstring injury. Isaiah Canaan (ankle) is expected back too, so Phoenix will at least have a puncher’s chance of pulling an upset of the team tied with Milwaukee and Denver for the NBA’s second-best record. Backup Raps’ point guard Fred VanVleet, leader of the second unit, could miss his third straight game with a toe issue, but versatile forward OG Anunoby will be back for Toronto.
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