MINNEAPOLIS — I hate feeling used to this. Before the fourth quarter started on Sunday night, with the Wolves leading the almighty Warriors by 10 points, the great Britt Robson leaned over to me and said the headline would practically write itself.
“Wolves blow double-digit lead again,” he said. Britt, as he often is, was correct in his assessment. I couldn’t do anything but nod my head in agreement. This season has been marred by complete collapses, and another double-digit lead completely disappearing at the hands of the league’s most potent team was hardly unexpected.
A night after laying a dud in Memphis, losing 110-89, the Warriors washed the first three-quarters at Target Center out of their minds. They responded like one would expect them to against a fragile young team that simply cannot avoid the unsightly stretch of stale offense that leads to breakdowns on the defensive end and allows the opposition to gain all of the momentum and take control of the game.
The Wolves were outscored 38-20 in the fourth quarter—instead of the typical putrid third quarter showing—in what became another serious collapse that has defined the early season woes. Klay Thompson dropped 14 of his game-high 30 points in the final quarter when everything fell apart.
“I think it started with Andre (Iguodala), Shaun (Livingston) and D-West (David West) just bringing great energy in that fourth quarter,” Klay Thompson said. “We were down 10 but we didn’t let that deflate us. 12 minutes is a long time for this team. It started with the defense. When we’re switching, playing with great force and getting the ball off the glass and running the break, we’re near impossible to stop.”
Golden State has now played 111 consecutive regular season games without suffering back-to-back losses. Tonight was their 10th consecutive win in Minnesota, matching their longest road win streak vs. an opponent in franchise history.
The Warriors are now 10-0 this season when Stephen Curry (22 points), Kevin Durant (22) and Thompson (30) each score at least 20 points in the same game.
Let’s check in with the coach/POBO real quick.
Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, and Zach LaVine—otherwise known as the Baby Big 3—all scored 25 points. The bench was underwhelming again, shooting a combined 3-14 for 14 points. Golden State started out their big fourth quarter run against the lineup of Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, Brandon Rush, Shabazz Muhammad, and Gorgui Dieng. Towns was subbed in for Dieng and the run continued.
Dunn was -12 in the first 4:42 of the fourth before Ricky Rubio returned. It was a classic Rubio game. He controlled the tempo for three quarters and was a team-best +3 on the night, though his shot was terrible (3-10). At least he finished his layups at the rim. Of course, Rubio wasn’t the issue. I’m not surprised with how many people point the finger at him as the problem in Minneapolis—it’s the easy way out—but doing so tonight would be absurd. The Wolves issue is defense, and the Baby Big 3 must look in the mirror.
“I think we’re getting better, but in this league you have to win to get props,” Gorgui Dieng said. “We’re getting better. We just need to keep working and just keep everything together so we can win more games.”
The biggest question moving forward is undoubtedly this: How to do the Wolves take the next step defensively? How does Thibodeau and the coaching staff unlock the defensive upside on this roster? And is there defensive upside, or do changes need to be made to find difference makers on the defensive end to surround the young core?
“We’re all capable of it,” LaVine says when I asked him about how they can take the next step defensively. “We’ve all shown flashes of being really good defensively as a unit and individually. We just have to put it all together. It’s tough. Getting better at it is a process and you just have to go in with the same mentality, not get down on yourself, and just try to improve. That’s the main thing.”
“I don’t think you can go out and have these dudes be down by 10 in three quarters, holding them to a fairly good defensive shooting percentage,” LaVine said when asked if he felt like they are getting better on a daily basis.
“I feel like it’s progress every game ... I feel like it’s just on the defensive end. We have to get locked in. We get scattered sometimes. Everyone makes mistakes on offense and defense but we just have to try to cut those down and make more winning plays.”
While I hate being used to this feeling, like every other Wolves fan obviously is, there was a positivity surrounding the team after the game tonight that’s been missing for two weeks. It feels like they are close to putting everything together, but first they must find a way to move forward out of this funk they currently find themselves in for one long stretch almost every game.
When things start to fade, and the momentum starts to shift, they can’t let a few possessions snowball on them instead of correcting things and moving on. The Wolves cannot get used to these types of collapses.
It’s time to bounce back.