The Wolves came into Oracle arena fresh off their make-up game down-to-the-wire victory over Portland, which is unfortunate because any time you face the Warriors, even the KD-less Warriors you want to be at peak operating capacity. Minnesota’s tiredness showed not on the offensive end, where they hung with the Dubs for all but about five minutes at the end of the second quarter and another five in the middle of the third. Rather, it was the defensive end where the game slipped away.
The Warriors, already on an 11-game win streak and looking to pick up their 204th win in the last three seasons–the single winningest three-year stretch in NBA history–came out on a defensive mission. Throughout the first half, they threw a gaggle of long, physical wings at Wiggins: Matt Barnes, Draymond Green, Andre Igoudala, Shaun Livingston, all of whom bothered the young Canuck. JaVale McGee’s athleticism frustrated Dieng, as did his wild swinging elbow that caused Dieng to give him an oddly gentle little T-Rex arm two-hand shove.
At the end of the first quarter, Rubio, Towns and Wiggins had accounted for 26 of the team’s 32 points.
There are three things any team has to do to have any chance of keeping up with the Warriors: make shots, stick on shooters defensively, and get back in transition. The Wolves did none of these things tonight. Their first three came four minutes into the second quarter and they finished 4-19 from deep in the game. Their transition defense was in some ways actually rather impressive. It takes a certain amount of stubborn obstinance to manage to lose Klay Thompson in the corner on every single fast break in the game.
In the third quarter, Klay and Steph took turns gutting the Wolves with a series of devastating threes and drives to the buckets. Steph delivered one of the most absurd assists I’ve seen all season:
And Klay cooked soup like a French chef on a cold winter day: spiced to perfection. The Wolves kiddies cut into the lead in garbage time against the Warrior kiddies, but the game was decided by the end of the third quarter.
Notes and Thoughts:
— The Wolves gave up 104 points and 41 fast break points in three quarters. That’s… not great.
— Towns had an efficient 21 points on 8-10 shooting, plus four assists, two steals and two blocks. That’s the good. The bad is that he only took 10 shots and pulled in a (for him) mediocre six rebounds in a big-man matchup he definitely should have been able to take advantage of. The big KAT started out feasting in the paint, but sort of disappeared part-way through the third and never made his presence felt again.
— Wiggins had a less efficient 24 points on 9-20 shooting. He was super loose with the ball early on, throwing the ball away and dribbling carelessly. He ratcheted up the intensity later on but by then he had already let Klay get hot.
— Speaking of Klay, the man once described by a friend as looking like a half-finished sketch absolutely abused Kris Dunn in the second half. Dunn had his worst game in quite some time, and much of that had to do with Thompson pump-faking the rookie into fouls on three consecutive plays. Dunn is a tough defender but he had no idea what to do with Klay, who finished with 41 points on 24 shots.
— Shabazz and Payne each had their best game in quite some time, and were often the only sources of energy on the floor. Payne, who has played a career-low 128 minutes this season, showed some fight off the bench, hitting a three and helping out down low. Shabazz was at times the only player who could score for the Wolves. I still don’t think Thibs is going to bring him back next year, but I am interested to see how his career evolves from here.
— This team just doesn’t know how to win when Rubio isn’t playing out of his mind. That’s a problem, since there are justifiable questions about how sustainable his recent stretch of shooting is.
— Omri Casspi has been a big disappointment so far. I thought he’d fit perfectly between Wiggins and KAT but he just hasn’t been able to have an impact yet. I wouldn’t mind him coming off the bench next year though.
— By the way, if you don’t like watching the Warriors play, you might not love basketball as much as you think you do. I get competitive balance and all, but just in terms of basketball aesthetics, the Warriors play as pure and beautiful a game as you’ll ever see. I can’t wait for KD to come back and see whether Steph keeps playing like MVP Steph when he does.
–This loss brings us just one game in the loss column ahead of Sacramento, who has a much easier schedule to end the year. Having the seventh pick wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
And that’s it! Now go out and enjoy the day. It’s beautiful out and you want to back inside tonight when the Cavs and Celtics battle for the 1-seed.