Warriors thrive without Durant, roll past Wolves
OAKLAND, Calif. — The Minnesota Timberwolves knew they wouldn’t be seeing All-Star forward Kevin Durant in the Golden State Warriors’ lineup Wednesday, but that was no reason for overconfidence.
“They have that championship unity,” Minnesota center Karl-Anthony Towns said after a second-half Warriors explosion led to a 125-101 Golden State win in a battle of NBA division leaders.
Minnesota (7-4) had moved to the top of the Northwest Division with five consecutive wins, but the streak ended with Golden State guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson orchestrating a 44-26 third-quarter blitz. The big quarter more than compensated for the Warriors’ 13 first-half turnovers.
“That was all on me,” Curry said of his four early giveaways. “I threw the ball away, three boneheaded plays. But we were playing good defense, and after that we kind of took back the game.”
Thompson finished with a game-high 28 points while Curry contributed 22 points, eight rebounds and eight assists as Golden State (9-3) won its fifth consecutive game to sit atop the Pacific Division.
“We threw it to our guys instead of to the other guys,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said. “As simple as it sounds, that’s what happened. In the first half, we probably threw away five passes without thinking. In the third quarter, we just took care of the ball.
“When we do that, because of our talent and the pressure Steph can put on the defense at the point of attack, then the ball starts to really move. You saw how beautiful that was in the second half. The defense part I’m really pleased with. I think this is about our fifth straight really good defensive effort. That’s a great sign.”
With Durant out thanks to a left thigh contusion, playing time opened up for the bench players. The response included 57 points, 68 if you count Andre Iguodala, who started for the first time in two years in subbing for Durant. And the backups kept the turnovers down and the defensive pressure up.
“With KD out, we needed someone to step up,” forward Draymond Green said, singling out small forward Nick Young, who scored 12 points. “His defense was incredible. He brought some energy to the game. He came up with several steals. I think we have great depth on our bench, and at all different positions. That’s a weapon of ours.”
Timberwolves forward Jimmy Butler is a believer.
“They just outplayed us that entire game,” Butler said. “But all in all, it’s one game. We’ll learn from it. We’ve got to take the things they do and apply it to our game.
“They whip that ball around, they get everybody involved. We’ve just got to play hard. They just outplayed us, especially in the third quarter when the game got out of hand. They are a really good team, obviously, with or without KD.”
The Timberwolves felt the Warriors’ defensive pressure particularly from the perimeter. They hit on just 5 of 24 (20.8 percent) from 3-point range.
“They hit some threes in transition that we didn’t account for,” Towns said. “We’ve got to learn from this tape and move on, have a better game. We’ve got some time to go, but they’re a great team.”
After a sluggish first half that ended with Golden State up 51-50, the Warriors began to open the game up in the third quarter, Thompson scoring 13 points in the period.
Golden State pushed the lead to double figures, 76-66, when Thompson hit center JaVale McGee with a pass on the run for a dunk with 4:27 left in the third quarter.
Forward Anthony Wiggins scored 17 points and Towns had 16 points and 12 rebounds for the Timberwolves. Minnesota’s Jeff Teague and Taj Gibson each scored 14.
NOTES: Asked whether he could play Saturday against the Philadelphia 76ers, Golden State SF Kevin Durant (left thigh bruise) said, “Probably. We’ll see.” ... Halfway through the second quarter, the sellout crowd stood to sing “Happy Birthday” to beaming former Warriors coach Al Attles, whose 81st birthday was Tuesday. ... Golden State SG Klay Thompson has made at least one 3-point shot in 66 consecutive games, the NBA’s best current run and ninth best all-time. G Stephen Curry is the record-holder at 157 games. ... Eleven Warriors saw double-digit minutes. ... Golden State has won 18 of the past 21 meetings. ... This was the first time the teams have met when both were division leaders. ... For the second time in franchise history, the Warriors have won five consecutive games by 17 or more points. They first did it Jan. 12-22, 2017.