The undermanned Golden State Warriors wilted down the stretch and fell further behind the Houston Rockets for the top seed in the West, losing 109-103 to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday.
On an afternoon when the Warriors — minus Stephen Curry plus four other rotation players — dropped two games back of the Rockets in the loss column, here’s what you need to know…
The Warriors didn’t lose this game on any single play, but that whiffed corner 3-point attempt by Klay Thompson sure hurt. The remaining Splash Brother had a rough afternoon.
Inside of the final two minutes of the fourth quarter, Draymond Green came up with a potentially game-saving play. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year picked the pocket of Nemanja Bjelica, then found a wide-open Thompson in the corner for a 3-pointer. A make would have turned a one-point deficit into a 106-104 lead.
Instead, Thompson clanked it, finishing the day 3-for-12 from beyond the arc and 8-for-22 from the field. There’s a confounding variable in all this as Thompson dinged up his right thumb late in the first half and had it wrapped in the second. Still, Thompson hasn’t exactly blossomed since Curry went down in the opening minutes of Thursday’s win over the San Antonio Spurs. Over the past three games, the guard is 8-for-24 on triples.
Kevin Durant (third consecutive 30-point game) and Draymond Green (10 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals and 1 block) have stepped up. Thompson has not.
The loss to the Wolves was yet another reminder just how much Thompson and the Warriors miss the transcendent talent that is Curry.
Speaking of transcendent, Karl-Anthony Towns is a monster. Speaking on the ABC broadcast, Towns discussed his goal to become the greatest player of all time. It’s wildly bold claim, but on Sunday Towns was unquestionably the best player on the court at the Target Center.
Once the 7-footer gets rolling toward the hoop, there is not stopping him. Even if Towns does miss, there’s an excellent chance he’ll collect the rebound and lay it back in. Against the Warriors, Towns had 31 points — second only to Durant’s 39 — and a game-high 16 rebounds.
Statistically, Zaza Pachulia delivered his best performance of the year. After a woeful Friday night showing that consisted of just six disastrous second-quarter minutes, the maligned Pachulia was at his pinnacle against the Wolves.
The Georgian delivered his first double double (16 points and 11 rebounds), doing the lion’s share of his damage in the opening half, helping spark a 20-4 run to begin the second quarter.
Going into the break, Pachulia had 12 points (5-for-5 from the field) with six rebounds, two assists, one steal and two blocks. In 10 first-half minutes, Pachulia was +16.
The bench at large was notably better than in Friday’s loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. Playing sans Andre Iguodala, David West, Jordan Bell and Patrick McCaw for the second game in a row, the reserve crew was in significantly better form, especially during the aforementioned second-quarter barrage.
At the break, the Warriors owned a 62-55 advantage and one bizarre boxscore. Shaun Livingston was +20, Nick Young was +18, Pachulia was +16 and Durant -9.
Firepower off the depleted bench was once again lacking. After dropping just 16 points as a unit against the Blazers, the group scored 27 points, but 24 belonged to Pachulia and Livingston. Omri Casspi was the only other sub to score, totaling three points.
Young epitomized the day, missing all four of his shot attempts, which all happened to be triples. On the day, the Warriors were 10-for-36 from distance (27.8 percent) a major factor in the loss to the Wolves.