There was a time not too long ago when Andrew Wiggins used to go off against his old team. He scored more points against the Minnesota Timberwolves than any other team, and seemed to delight in dunking on his old teammate, Karl-Anthony Towns. That seemed like a distant memory Tuesday night in Minneapolis, when Towns scored 39 points to Wiggins’ 12, and the Wolves ran away from the Golden State Warriors late in a 129-114 win.
Wiggins scored eight points in the game’s first 3:08, and in his next 27 minutes, he scored four more. Meanwhile KAT came out strong with 15 points in the first quarter, and never eased up the rest of the way, drawing fouls, pulling in nine rebounds, and making more three-pointers than anyone not named Steph Curry on the Warriors. He literally beat up on the Warriors all night, sending Moses Moody to the locker room with an elbow to the eye - no foul, no video review.
Steve Kerr said Moses Moody's eye is swollen shut after taking this blow from Towns in the first half. "Pretty bad," Kerr said. pic.twitter.com/Htf004xM8I— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) March 2, 2022
Curry had 34 points for the shorthanded Warriors, who were down to nine players when Moody left for good after seven minutes. Klay Thompson remained out with an illness, Nemanja Bjelica was out with a thigh contusion, and the two-way players didn’t make the trip. They had to rely on the reserves, and only Gary Payton II truly stepped up, with 14 points and a game-high +15 in other start as the de facto power forward. Kevon Looney led the team with five assists and seven rebounds, but the team cratered when he hit the bench. That’s not a surprise when facing a 6’11” All-Star center - Jonathan Kuminga and Juan Toscano-Anderson simply aren’t going to be able to check KAT.
Jordan Poole finished with 12 points, but he had another rough game off the bench. Rumor has it that Poole is upset that he wasn’t starting with Klay Thompson out, in favor of the Payton/Moody combination, and it’s affecting his play. Poole had an extremely rough sequence after entering the game six minutes in. He immediately gave up a three-pointer to Patrick Beverley, fouled Beverley on the next possession, then got his shot blocked, and fouled Beverley again. Overall he committed three fouls in his first three minutes. He went 1-6 from three-point range, including a few incredibly wide-open looks, and is now down to 33% from deep on the season.
On defense, the Warriors weren’t stopping Minnesota at all in the first half, where the Wolves shot 50% from the field and made all 14 of their free throws. Former Warrior D’Angelo Russell had 15 before halftime and even Patrick “The Next Five Years Are Mine” Beverley was in double digits at the half. For a while, the Warriors kept pace by bombing away from deep, thanks to Payton and Damion Lee, who had nine in the quarter. Payton even cleaned off a court side fan’s Jordans when he accidentally scuffed them.
The hot shooting kept things close, and when Looney’s effort forced a steal that led to a transition three, the lead was just 58-54.
And then the Warriors missed their next seven shots. For the remainder of the quarter, their lone bucket came when Gary Payton II put back a missed layup by Curry. Minnesota closed the half on a 10-2 run, ending with a three-point play from Russell after a Curry foul.
Curry managed to single-handedly keep the Warriors connected during the third quarter, scoring 11 of the Warriors points in a row, and assisting on both buckets that bracketed his flurry. He finished the quarter with 16 points plus three assists, meaning he was directly responsible for 22 of the Dubs’ 31 third quarter points, and 22 of 24 when he was in the game. Very impressive! But also, can someone give Steph some help?
What else does Steph want? Some consistent rotations. “We have a lot of different rotations and lineups and we try to make adjustments on the fly. We have to be more in sync as a five-man unit,” Curry said, in a statement that comes as close to criticizing Steve Kerr as the Chef ever will. Kerr sort of concurred, but chose not to talk strategy or his own adjustments. Instead, he channeled the spirit of Phil Jackson with this peyote-flavored quote:
“It’s not just a tangible thing as much as it is just a feeling and an energy — a collective spirit. I didn’t like the energy or the spirit tonight.”
So Kerr might try to adjust the lineups, or he might just sage the visiting locker room in Dallas before Golden State’s game on Thursday. Are “vibes” also ramping up for full-contact practices?
Like the loss to Dallas, the Warriors fell apart in the 4th quarter, particularly on defense. It wasn’t just the Wolves scoring, but the way they were scoring - layup after layup. Maybe it’s communication or maybe it’s the lack of a rim protector, but the Dubs looked unmotivated and disconnected on defense near the end. They could score with Minnesota for a while, but simply couldn’t get any stops, so when they missed four shots in a row at one point, the Wolves pulled away, effectively clinching the game when Naz Reid dunked to make it 108-90 with eight minutes left. When a three from Malik Beasley - who had six threes off the bench - made it 113-94 with six minutes left, Kerr cleared the bench.
Speaking of the bench, the Warriors reserves did score 36 points, but most of that was in garbage time. Jonathan Kuminga had 11 of his 13 points in the final six minutes, and Poole had five of his 12 points. They simply couldn’t defend a decent but by no means astounding Timberwolves bench, who had 30 points in the competitive portion of the game, compared to Golden State’s 16. Obviously Thompson, Moody, and Bjelica would have helped, but whether it’s combinations, communications, or effort level, the bench simply needs to play a lot better down the stretch, because this is looking like a very tired team.
Golden State has lost six of eight, and they head to Dallas for a rematch on Thursday night.