Five and a half minutes into tonight’s 126-113 defeat, the Warriors had jumped out to a 19-10 lead after a run in which their four all stars (and all five starters) demonstrated why this team is a league leading 39-10.
The NBA’s most potent offense generated four layups, three mid-range jump shots, two free throws, and a three pointer in just under six minutes – they hardly looked back. The onslaught included contributions from all five Warriors on the floor, and viewers were reminded why 80% of that lineup will represent the Bay Area at next months All-Star game.
Golden State managed 38 points in the first quarter, and led the Wolves by nine at the break. The lead was extended to 16 with 7:44 remaining in the second before the Wolves went on a 11–0 run to bring the game to within five. But the Warriors got hot from deep and pulled away before halftime, affording themselves a comfortable 74-62 cushion heading to the locker room.
The Wolves defense clamped down in the second half, allowing the Warriors just 52 more points. And while the improvement kept the Wolves in the game for much of the final two frames, it never really felt close. Some late game heroics from Jamal Crawford brought the Wolves to within 6 (111-117) with 4:28 to play, but that was all the hope the visiting team was awarded.
Jimmy Butler will not play tonight. Bjelica starts instead again— Jerry Zgoda (@JerryZgoda) January 26, 2018
The Wolves were without Jimmy Butler tonight, one of their two all stars, for the fourth consecutive game. The final three of those matchups were a difficult 1 and 2 west coast road trip (Clipper, Blazers, Warriors) in which the Wolves defense showed signs of relapse. Over those three games, the Wolves were unable to hold any opponent below 118 points. And in the four without Butler, including Sunday’s victory over the Toronto Raptors, the Wolves gave up 119 points per game.
While it has been concerning to see a team that has executed a defensive turnaround for much of the season revert to old habits, some of the struggles can be explained. Those four opponents each sport a top 15 offense, three of which are in the top 10, and two of which are in the top 5. Beyond that, during last night and tonight’s back-to-back, the Blazers and Warriors shot a scorching 38-68 (56%) from beyond the arc. Since the Wolves close out defense wasn’t noticeably bad, a lot of that can be chalked up to hot nights from good shooters.
The Wolves saw impressive individual performances from Karl Anthony Towns, Jamal Crawford and Nemanja Bjelica. Towns led the way with 31 points on 13-24 from the field, 11 rebounds and 5 assists. Bjelica started his fourth game in the absence of Butler piling up 11 points, 6 rebounds and five assists – highlighted by a 3-5 mark from beyond the arc. Jamal Crawford also managed 21 points and 5 assists off the bench and his hot hand kept the Wolves competitive through much of the fourth quarter.
- After pulling to within six with more than four minutes to play, the Wolves missed 9 consecutive shots – 9 of their last 10 – and saw their chances crumbled by a 9-2 Warriors run to close out the game.
- According to Anthony Slater, The Warriors 37 assists in tonight’s victory marks their 22nd game this season with more than 32 assists. The catch: no other team has more than 7. A large portion of those assists came on the fast break where the Warriors did a majority of their damage.
- The Warriors sharpshooters – Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson – combined for 18-27 (66%) from three.
- After averaging just over 31 points in the previous three matchups with Butler sidelined, Andrew Wiggins managed just 10 points tonight against Kevin Durant and a stingy Warriors defense.
- Jeff Teague showed signs of improvement after what has been a difficult stretch since coming back from a knee injury. He put up 17 points on 7-14 from the floor to go along with seven assists and three rebounds.
- Apparently Chris Webber, who broadcast tonight’s game on TNT alongside Marv Albert, doesn’t think too highly of the fourth place Wolves. Minnesota fans are blessed with Jim Peterson and Dave Benz, so it was frustrating to listen to Webber spew takes that didn’t seem to hold much ground in reality.