Prior to Wednesday night’s game against the Warriors, our Kyle Ratke was able to chat with ESPN play-by-play announcer Dave Pasch. Tipoff between the Warriors and Wolves is set for 9:30 p.m. in Golden State. The Game will air on ESPN, Fox Sports North and WCCO Radio.
Ratke: What’s the biggest difference you’ve see with these Wolves since their last loss in Detroit?
Pasch: I think the biggest thing I’ve noticed with them is there’s defensive accountability with guys like Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson and when you’ve had a young team like the Wolves have had the last couple of years and you have limited bench production, I think a lot of people expected the Wolves to turn things around overnight. The personnel is much better this year and it’s showing the last handful of games on the defensive end and you’ve got leaders. You’ve got veterans like the two guys I mentioned that help teach Towns and Wiggins and some of the younger guys defense, and they’ve got a ways to go, but they’re definitely a better team than they were last year. You guys knew it, we knew that they would be better. I don’t know how quickly people thought it would come together. It seems like it’s starting to happen here since Butler got back from his injury. Obviously playing the Warriors will be the ultimate test.
Ratke: The Wolves have beat the Warriors in each of the last two seasons, something many teams haven’t done. What is it about the Wolves that makes them a tough matchup for the Warriors?
Pasch: That’s a good question. I’d have to go back and look. Did the Wolves play them on a back-to-back? What was the schedule like? Who was injured who was not injured? That’s sometimes more than anything telling, I would have to go back and look at the context of what happened. But the Wolves have players who can score and have big nights. They’ve added a couple of guys. I think a guy who didn’t get a ton of publicity in all the moves they made this offseason who really played well was Jeff Teague. He was a guy for a while in Atlanta, you never really saw as a high-volume assist guy and when he was in Indiana as well. Over the last handful of games, you’re starting to see that, and I think Thibs looks at him and sees the type of point guard he wants. He probably hasn’t gotten the publicity he deserves, and I think anytime you have a point guard like that who can beat you two different ways. He’s not in the class of Kyrie or some of the other great scoring point guard, but the can make plays and he’s distributing. Whoever the Warriors put on him, I think that will be the key, stopping him first and foremost.
Ratke: We’ve already seen tons of surprises in a Western Conference, probably the most talent we’ve seen in the West maybe ever. What has stuck out to you the most?
Pasch: A couple things I think. The Clippers playing as well as the have without Chris Paul, although they’ve done that in the past and reality sets in after a while. And Houston playing well without Chris Paul. We know how valuable Paul is on both ends of the floor, how great of a player he is on both ends of the floor. I think people were curious to see how the Rockets would adjust after Harden had an incredible year playing point guard next to Chris Paul and we haven’t really had a chance to see it for an extended period of time yet, but the Rockets are still winning. The Spurs without Kawhi Leonard it’s still way too early to tell what kind of team they’re going to be, but you’ve got a lot of solid teams and there are probably a couple of team who got off to poor starts that I Would rule out just yet in the West mix.