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Warriors 116, Wolves 99: What Could Have Been

The wheels fell off after Minnesota led by four heading into the fourth quarter.

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

There’s no shame in losing to the Warriors because of one quarter. They do it to everyone, regardless to the level of dysfunction your team is experiencing at the moment.

Still, it hurts. The quartet of superstars constantly have you thinking ‘What could have been?’ Erasing leads and expanding theirs in the blink of an eye.

Unfortunately, last night’s game was a microcosm of the current state of the franchise.

What could have been if Jimmy Butler was on board, if at the very least for this final year of his contract?

Alternatively, what could have been if Tom Thibodeau and the front office honored Butler’s reported trade request with more haste?

The reality we’re living in is Jimmy has officially checked out. He’s a blackhole of negativity, sucking the life out of the Wolves. For some reason, he’s still here.

It’s not all doom and gloom. The team played great for three quarters, taking a four point lead heading into the final frame.

The Warriors were frustratingly hot, starting the game 12-15 from the field. Their passing was dizzying as they found open shots and easy lobs. Here’s a fun one:

The starters were being outplayed but the second unit came in and stabilized things.

Josh Okogie played nearly perfectly in the first half. In ten minutes, he was 3-4 from the field and 5-5 from the line for 12 points.

His motor and instincts on defense were on display as he had a steal and filled passing lanes. Fans are rightfully excited for him as he not only displays great effort, but an understanding of how to play on that side of the ball as well. It’s impressive how well he’s looked so far on defense as a rookie.

Minnesota shot 45 threes, setting a new franchise record that was just set last week against the Bucks in a terrible loss.

All year the team has shown a consistent effort to take more shots beyond the arc, a statistic they were dead last in last year. The bad news is they only made 13 of those tonight for a near 29 percent clip.

Andrew Wiggins scored 13 (at one point ten in a row for the Wolves) of his team-high 22 points in the third quarter after struggling in the first half. He was 4-9 from deep, which is an encouraging thing to see.

Tyus Jones, who also had a slow start, started pestering Steph Curry for steals and finding open teammates in transition. He ended the game with eight points, nine assists and five rebounds in his first start of the year.

It was only a matter of time, though. Klay Thompson scored eight points in less than two minutes to start the fourth, the Warriors had a two-point lead, and you knew what was coming.

Minnesota only turned the ball over once through three quarters but had four when it counted the most. Much to the entire league’s chagrin, you have to be perfect to beat this team.

Kevin Durant and Curry checked back in eventually and the Wolves fell apart as the Warriors found their free flowing offense yet again. Minnesota lost the fourth quarter 33-12.

To a normal team this is just a tough loss to the near unbeatable defending champs, no big deal. The Wolves are not normal.

Butler consistently ignored a wide open Karl-Anthony Towns on pick and rolls throughout. He played hero ball, taking questionable, off-balance jumpers. Most glaringly, there was nearly no help defense, what the team needs most from him.

All of this coming off a game where the team, sans Butler, defeated the Utah Jazz behind Derrick Rose’s career-high 50 points. The chemistry was palpable throughout the game which culminated in an emotional breakdown on the court after the win as the players were obviously happy for Rose.

Back to this game.

You could argue the Warriors sort of just do this to players. Crush their spirit in mere seconds. But that’s not the supposed player that Butler is. He’s a fighter, a gamer, and he just ‘wants to play ball’.

He’s not fighting anymore, not for the Wolves.

Tom Thibodeau has seemingly given Butler a mandate to do whatever he wants, so far as to even decide when he plays. The guy calling the shots doesn’t even want to be here. In what world does someone do that for a player not named Bryant, James or Jordan?

Apparently, it’s Jimmy’s world. We’re just living in it, watching him attempt to burn it to the ground.