The Golden State found a way to win on Monday night, but it wasn't pretty.
Every season there are a few of these games - back end of back-to-backs, ends of long road trips, shortened rosters after injuries. This was a perfect storm of a tired Warriors team heading off to a city tough to play in with Minnesota. Coming off a swing through Texas, the team needed one more good showing before they could head home for a west coast stretch that will take them through the rest of the season. With three more road games left in the season, this must have seen like the final bump before the home stretch.. and they found a way to eek it out.
For those that watched the game, there isn't much you will put on the highlight reel. The Warriors shot fairly well from the field, hitting .49% of their shots as Minnesota tends to forget to play defense at times. But between the turnovers (16, with most coming in the second half) and the free throw discrepancy (30-24 MINN, with most of the Warriors FT coming in wrap-up time) the game seemed constantly fragile.
But give credit where credit is due: Minnesota has parts of a good team. Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins represent fantastic young talents that will soon make the jump and make this team legit. Zach LaVine should get the keys to the car when the team moves on from Ricky Rubio in the near future, and a legit coach will put this franchise in a good spot going forward. They were spry all night, finding ways to stay in the game while taking advantage of Warriors boredom and a relatively poor Steph Curry shooting night to make this game close.
How can the Warriors avoid this in the future? Is a game like this a cause for concern?
Yes - The Warriors are a bit warn out
Top teams are losing left and right. The Spurs dropped a huge lead to the Charlotte on Monday as well, showing that even top teams lose to bad teams on a given night. Even as the Warriors head home, they still only get one day rest before facing a tough team in the Clippers. You would hope Golden State could find some time to rest the starters, rest the roster in chunks before the playoffs, but as we have said all season, if you chase the record, you are bound to wear out.
The coaching staff has to look at these remaining games, find a chance or two to sit a player like Curry or Draymond Green (maybe the Sixers at home next Sunday?). And a little talked about fact: the Warriors finish the season with two games against the Spurs and two games against the Grizzlies, two of those games on a road back-to-back. Why? Because Steve Kerr pissed off someone in the league office. If the team falls off the pace with a loss or two more, do you throw in the white flag for the sake of playoff rest?
No - The roster is injured, we will be fine
There are a lot of minutes and a lot of productivity on the injury report right now. The team can still win without a player like Bogut on the floor, however you miss his defense, his leadership, his calming presence out there on the court. The concern is the rest of the roster wearing out covering the minutes of the players missing time. The hope was a guy like Ian Clark would earn himself some playoff minutes with a good showing while Iguodala was resting up, however his eight minutes of inefficient time on the court last night make you worry. All eleven of the Warriors got in the game last night, and not a single one outside of the All-Stars could get into double digit scoring. Where are you Harrison Barnes? Where are you Mo Buckets?
No - The defense will keep us in ballgames
The Wolves put up 104 points on Monday, but it was the clamp down defense at the end of the third quarter and fourth quarter that made the difference in the game. Held to 15 points in the last frame, Minnesota finally gave into the long arms and active hands of Golden State. Draymond Green played an amazing final frame, matching up against Towns and even Wiggins at times. Credit should be given to the job done on Wiggins in the second half by Brandon Rush and even Harrison Barnes, who read their scouting report well on the dynamic scorer.
This Warriors defense, while dealing with changing lineups, has continued to be consistent all year. The team gives up a few too many points (21st in the league) but this is due more to the pace they play. They can trade baskets with you all game long, but they still force you to shoot yourself into the loss by making you take the shots that the Warriors want you to take. Rubio 20 footers? All day. Wiggins from three? Sure, you shoot under 30% from there. They scout so well, execute the game plan, and win the long battle.
- The Warriors head home for the next four games, featuring a winnable schedule. After the Clippers, Golden State will welcome the Mavs (and David Lee's ring ceremony!) before a lighter weekend full of the Wizards and Sixers. The Clippers have lost two straight and four of their last five, and will be without Jeff Green and no Blake Griffin. I'd say this is a winnable one.
- Festus Ezeli gets re-evaluated, Bogut should only miss a few games. I am guessing the Aussie returns next weekend for the Dallas game, and Ezeli starts practicing this week. Just in time for the games that count!
- Can anyone watch the Wolves play and not still ask yourself "what if?" I can still imagine a Draymond Green and Klay Thompson trade for Kevin Love that might have set our franchise back 3-4 years and completely missed the window. With that said, I can still imagine Harrison Barnes getting a big offer from the Wolves over the summer.