The Golden State Warriors will be looking to maintain a strong start to their title defence as the Minnesota Timberwolves visit Oakland, live on Sky Sports.
The Warriors (8-1) are on a six-game winning streak, during which they have recorded an average victory margin of 18.5 points.
Steph Curry, the two-time MVP, might just be playing the best basketball of his career, averaging 33 points per game, while his ‘splash brother’ Klay Thompson found form with a record-breaking 14 three-pointers in a 52-point outing in Chicago on Tuesday.
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With Kevin Durant having been able to remain in cruise control for the most part, it is hard to see anyone handing an L to the juggernaut any time soon.
However, if there’s a team that’s capable of a surprise it’s the Minnesota Timberwolves (4-4).
The Jimmy Butler trade saga rumbles on. The All-Star guard has held up his end of the bargain so far, producing a clutch display to see off LeBron James’ Los Angeles Lakers on Monday, but is still reportedly seeking an exit.
It was another of Tom Thibodeau’s ‘TimberBulls’ (Timberwolves players who used to play for the head coach in Chicago) who took the headlines as Butler sat out with ‘soreness’ on Wednesday.
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Derrick Rose, the 2011 MVP, whose career has been blighted by a series of injuries, produced a remarkable performance to score a career-high 50 points, guiding the Wolves to a narrow win over the Utah Jazz.
With great fascination over Butler’s future and Rose’s renaissance, for once the spotlight at Oracle Arena might be on two of the visiting players…
Key Battle – Derrick Rose v Steph Curry
Both 30-year-old point guards and former MVPs, you would expect Rose and Curry to have developed a long-running rivalry.
Unfortunately, injury has prevented what could have been a fascinating battle between Rose’s speed and athleticism and Curry’s shooting and skill.
As Rose became the NBA’s youngest ever MVP at the age of 21 in 2011, Curry was contending with a series of ankle injuries that appeared to be threatening his development.
However, roles were reversed in 2012 as Rose suffered the first of a series of knee injuries that limited him to just 10 games over the next two seasons and changed his career trajectory.
A finally fit Curry thrived for the Warriors, ascending to the position Rose once held as the game’s premier point guard and claiming back-to-back MVP awards in 2015 and 2016.
Coming off the back of his career-high, Rose will be keen to show he can still compete with the NBA’s best.
Last time out
26.8 – That’s the number of free-throw attempts per-game the Timberwolves are averaging per game, the most in the NBA. Meanwhile, at an almost identical number of 26.9, the Warriors have somewhat surprisingly allowed their opponents to get to the line more than any other team in the league.
With the Timberwolves holding the league’s second-best free-throw conversion rate at 83 per cent. the Warriors may place some emphasis on avoiding giving the visitors too many cheap points.
One to watch (Timberwolves) – Jimmy Butler
There will no better opportunity than in a nationally televised game against the reigning champions for Jimmy Butler to put himself in the shop window.
The four-time All-Star wants out of Minnesota and a strong performance in Oakland could convince one of his suitors to make an offer that will convince Thibodeau to let his man go.
Butler starred with 32 points against the Lakers in his most recent outing, hitting a game-sealing three-pointer over LeBron James to remind his (many) critics of his difference-making ability.
One to watch (Warriors) – Kevin Durant
With Curry’s hot start and Thompson’s record-breaking display, Durant has received little fanfare for averaging 27.8 points per game thus far.
Durant’s preparedness to facilitate has shown in the assist column, with the two-time reigning finals MVP averaging a career-high 6.3 assists to this point.
However, as the player many consider to be the NBA’s most gifted scorer, Durant is bound to want to stamp his authority on a game soon and the challenge of facing an elite defender such as Butler might just be the inspiration he needs.
Friday night's fixtures
Watch the Detroit Pistons take on the Philadelphia 76ers via a free live stream on skysports.com and the Sky Sports app on Saturday at 5pm
On Saturday November 10, you will be able to follow the Milwaukee Bucks @ Los Angeles Clippers, also available on a free live stream, from 8:30pm on skysports.com and the Sky Sports app.
Sky Sports is the new home of the NBA in the UK with live coverage throughout the week, including selected live games free to all Sky subscribers via Sky Sports Mix.
And www.skysports.com/nba will be your home for news, reports, video and features throughout the season while you can follow us @SkySportsNBA
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