The road woes continued for the short-handed Golden State Warriors, who fell 119-99 to the Minnesota Timberwolves Sunday night. All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns led the way for Minnesota with 26 points and 11 rebounds, despite sitting out the entire 4th quarter. But it was the Timberwolves’ bench who won this one. The Minnesota reserves out scored the Dubs’ backups 57-38, which is not coincidentally almost the exact margin of victory for the game. The Warriors fell to 31-12, 2 ½ games behind the Phoenix Suns.
For the Warriors, Jordan Poole led the way with 20 points, but four turnovers. Rookie Jonathan Kuminga had 19 points and 7 rebounds off the bench, Kevin Looney had 12 boards, and Klay Thompson had 13 points and three three-pointers in 22 minutes, despite one shot being wiped out on video review. While normally unstoppable against his old team, Andrew Wiggins had a quiet 12 points and four assists on only 11 shots. Did he forget how to dunk on KAT?
It was the third quarter, usually the Warriors’ favorite part of the game, that proved their undoing, specifically the end. They went in trailing by six after Klay’s three was erased, but quickly tied things up at 59-all on a Wiggins three. He and Anthony Edwards traded threes, and then Wiggins sank another jumper to take the Warriors’ first lead since late in the first quarter. Then, with seven minutes remaining in the quarter and the Dubs holding a 68-67 lead, the wheels came off.
Jordan Poole made a layup through contact and drew a foul from Patrick Beverley, a welcome call for a player who’s been frustrated recently by a lack of whistles on his drives to the basket. But seemingly due to the lobbying of Beverley, the officials reversed the call, making it a charge on Poole and a turnover. Steve Kerr challenged unsuccessfully, then got called for a technical foul, making the play a four-point swing. Perhaps still stunned by the awful call, the Warriors failed to block out Jarred Vanderbilt and his putback dunk.
An energized Poole hit a three and drew two more fouls afterward, the Warriors took the lead, and then they forgot how to make layups. Towns blocked Wiggins and Looney on one possession. Kuminga missed a layup, missed another after being fouled and split his free throws, and Bjelica traveled and whiffed on a layup. After scoring 30 points in the first eight minutes of the quarter, the Dubs got only a single Kuminga free throw for the final 3:57, part of a 12-1 Timberwolves run to end the quarter.
The Warriors weren’t good offensively, but the Wolves’ backups played energetic defense. Jaylen Nowell, Jaden McDaniels, and Taurean Prince came in and put the clamps on the Golden State backups. When Towns tipped in a missed three with a second left, it was 91-81 to begin the 4th. Which wasn’t any better for the Warriors, even with Poole returning, and Naz Reid subbing in for Towns. Minnesota rode their backups to a scorching 20-3 stretch. For 9:52 of game action, the Warriors didn’t make a shot from the field. And for that stretch, it was a 32-4 beat down, and garbage time the rest of the way.
Early in the game, the T-Wolves also pushed the Warriors to close a quarter. It was locked up 20-20 when the Naz Reid show began. Thanks to Reid’s seven points and a Jonathan Kuminga flagrant - the rare flagrant offensive foul - the quarter ended 30-22 in Minnesota’s favor.
The offensive breakdown was the real story, but in addition, seams continued to show on the no-Draymond defense. Bjelica has been extremely good at times, but that’s been when Steve Kerr can take advantage of favorable matchups for him. When Beli was getting to the hoop and drawing fouls in the first half, it mitigated his rough defense. But he simply isn’t equipped to guard Towns or switch onto faster players - and Minnesota has no shortage of quick players. Beli was frustrated himself, punching a chair after getting dinged for an offensive foul that negated - but also enabled - a Wiggins dunk.
Steph Curry flew home early with a hand injury suffered in the blowout win against Chicago Friday night. The team definitely felt his absence in the second half, where they really couldn’t get a bucket. Draymond Green was out again, and his calf injury won’t be re-evaluated until the end of the Warriors upcoming homestand, so the team has some things to figure out in the frontcourt. Gary Payton II also missed the contest, and the team could have used his usual end-of-quarter steals in the first and third quarters.
Maybe the best result of last night was that many regular Warriors viewers were watching the NFL playoffs instead, or already emotionally wrung out from the 49ers’ victory over the Cowboys. In case you missed it, these games had a lot in common.
Interceptions: Jimmy Garoppolo threw a pass away that enabled the Cowboys comeback, and Dak Prescott also had a bad pick. Meanwhile the Warriors’ bench was very casual with the ball, led by Bjelica’s four turnovers. Overall the bench gave the ball away eight times - that’s twice as many times as they got an assist.
Referee controversy: Dallas fans pelted the referees with garbage as they left the field after time ran out and an official ran into their quarterback. The Warriors got the short end of the stick a few times, both from Klay’s waved-off three to the Poole foul call reversal. All part of the Scott Foster referee experience. Both Kerr and Andre Iguodala drew technical fouls for complaining. Is Andre allowed to pay his fine in bitcoin?
Three-pointers: 49ers kicker Robbie Gould hit three of them, and so did Klay Thompson!
Not scoring in the fourth quarter: The 49ers couldn’t put up points in the final quarter as they tried to run out the clock, and the Warriors didn’t make a shot from the field for six minutes, until Minnesota had taken a 27-point lead. They scored 18, and it easily could have been less.
Scoring through contact: Deebo Samuel constantly bounced off and ran through Dallas defenders, including a cutback run for a touchdown. Meanwhile, Karl-Anthony Towns scored five different times when he was fouled on the shot, converting that to three three-point plays. Fouling a star like KAT is inevitable - but every time they committed a shooting foul, he made the shot anyway.