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Warriors 125, Wolves 101: All Good Things Must Come to an End

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The Wolves 5-game winning streak was abruptly halted by the defending NBA champions.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Put some clothes on, the Wolves are no longer streaking.

After stringing together five straight victories for the first time since 2009, the Wolves fell victim to the Golden State Warriors Wednesday night in Oracle Arena, 125-101.

Coming into last night’s game, the Wolves had averaged 114.4 points per game on 48.5 percent shooting over their last five games. That type of offensive brilliance was expectedly halted by the stingy Warriors, as the Wolves barely broke the century mark and shot a tepid 41.1 percent from the field, including a disastrous 5-24 from three point range (20.4%).

Conversely, the defending NBA champions, who were without Kevin Durant because of a left thigh contusion, connected on 56.5 percent of their shots, including 15-36 from beyond the arc (41.7%). Klay Thompson (11-20, 6-12 from deep) led all scorers in the game with 28 points.

If you missed last night’s contest, you missed 24 minutes of really entertaining basketball and 24 minutes of really putrid basketball. The Wolves defense was clicking on all cylinders early on, led by an extremely active Andrew Wiggins who tallied four steals in the first half. “Primetime TV” Wiggins also made his presence felt on the offensive end:

Wiggins finished with 17 points on 6-14 shooting and added 6 rebounds and 3 assists, but much like the rest of the starters, most of his damage occurred in the first half.

Trailing 51-50 at the end of 24 minutes, things got away from the Wolves quickly in the second half, sparked by a 17-2 Warriors run that all but sealed the victory and guaranteed Aaron Brooks some late night cardio.

For reasons beyond my pay grade, the Wolves decided against ball movement and transition defense in the second half, things that aided them during their previous five game stretch. Jeff Teague, who came into the game averaging a career high 8.4 assists, nearly set the record on multiple possessions for “most consecutive dribbles without a productive result.”

Teague’s attempt to deflate the ball in the second half also deflated his teammates, resulting in countless possessions where Towns, Wiggins, and Butler were forced to stand and watch while Teague took highly contested jumpers as the shot clock expired. In the boldest of strategies, the Wolves actually opened the second half with seven straight possessions without Wiggins or Butler touching the ball even once on offense.

This smoothie-like combination of low-percentage shots and careless turnovers once again fueled the Warriors on pace to a 44-26 third quarter and subdued any positivity created by the Wolves in the first half. The lone highlight from yet another gloom and doom third quarter was this video game-like finish from Primetime Wiggins on JaVale McGee after shaking the former unanimous MVP in his dad shoes:

Despite trailing by only one at half, the Wolves found themselves down 95-76 after three quarters, and both teams essentially simulated the remaining 12 minutes of the game. The final result moved the Wolves record with a healthy Jimmy Butler to 7-2.

Speaking of Jimmy Butler, the box score once again shows a player who is still struggling to find his role on his new team, specifically on the offensive end. Make no mistake, Butler’s defensive ability and overall steady presence on the floor paid huge dividends during the Wolves five game winning streak. But facts are facts, and the fact is Butler’s points per game and attempts per game are the lowest they’ve been since his 2013-2014 season (he’s also getting to the line less than half as many times as he did during his final season with the Bulls).

Jimmy Buckets is too damn talented (and stubborn) to let these statistical trends continue for long, but for the Wolves to truly find themselves on offense and create an identity that can contend with the best in the west, they will need the avid outdoorsman to bring his offensive output back on par with his defensive output.

Other Notes:

  • With 16 points and 12 rebounds, Karl-Anthony Towns notched his eight double-double of the season and 122nd of his career.
  • Nemanja Bjelica, the NBA’s leader in three point percentage, played only 14 minutes tonight. Or, as my dad texted me after the game, “16 less minutes than he should have played.” #FreeBelly
  • The Warriors tallied 37 assists on 48 made baskets. Conversely, the Wolves only assisted on 21 of their 38 made buckets.
  • Speaking of assists! Shabazz Muhammad dished out his fifth assist of the season and 142nd of his five-year career. Bazz is now only 15,664 assists away from tying John Stockton.
  • The Warriors bench, led by former Wolf and “human rainbow creator” Omri Casspi, outscored the Wolves bench 57-29.
  • The Wolves have attempted more free throws than their opponent in all eleven games this season. Ending on a positive note!