In a season that has already been filled with numerous close games, multiple last-second shots and early success against quality opponents, the Minnesota Timberwolves faced their toughest test of the year thus far on Wednesday night.
Minnesota, entering the game as one of the hottest teams in the NBA having won five straight, had the challenge of taking down the defending champion Golden State Warriors on their home floor, something that has been done just 11 times since the start of the 2014-15 season.
Ultimately, that challenge of accomplishing that and extending their winning streak to six came up short for the Wolves, who fell 125-101 at Oracle Arena.
The game started out evenly matched despite sloppy play from both teams. The Warriors carried a 51-50 lead into halftime, but the Wolves did a lot of good things against the defending champs in the opening half. Minnesota, despite shooting 2-of-15 from deep and 39.2 percent from the field going into the break, was solid defensively, forcing Golden State into 13 turnovers and recorded 11 steals.
That evenly-matched first half didn’t translate to the second half, however. In flashbacks from last year, the game got away from Minnesota in the third quarter. The Warriors did what they do extremely well, run the floor, to pull away from the Wolves. Golden State outscored Minnesota 44-26 in the third and held a 19-0 advantage in fast-break points in that quarter alone.
That quarter would end up being the difference in the game, as the Warriors never looked back.
Golden State ended up owning Minnesota in almost every category. The Warriors finished with a total of 15 3-pointers to the Wolves’ five, while outrebounding Minnesota 45-41 and holding a 37-21 advantage in total assists and a 35-14 advantage in fast-break points.
Minnesota, which dropped to 7-4 on the season and into a three-way tie for third place in the West, was led by Andrew Wiggins with 17 points, six rebounds and four steals. Karl-Anthony Towns has 16 points and 12 rebounds, Taj Gibson had 14 points and seven rebounds, Jeff Teague had 14 points and five assists and Jimmy Butler added 11 points and five assists.
The two-headed monster of Klay Thompson and Steph Curry led Golden State, as always. Thompson had 28 points and five rebounds and Curry added 22 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. Andre Iguodala, who filled in for the injured Kevin Durant in the starting lineup, tallied 11 points and three rebounds.
It’s a tough task for anyone to come into Oracle Arena and take down the Warriors. It’s been that way really since 2014 and continued to be the case for the Wolves on Wednesday night.
But this loss could end up being a good measuring stick for where Minnesota is and where it wants to be as the season progresses.