You can be forgiven if you thought this game was over at halftime. Hell, the Warriors can be forgiven for thinking this game was over at halftime. They did what they usually do: Go on a devastating stretch at some point during the game that just buries inferior opponents. It happened tonight over the last few minutes of the second quarter, as they exploded behind a series of threes from Steph Curry and Klay Thompson to push out to a 14 point lead. The Wolves looked like they had no answer, and things looked even more grim when Karl-Anthony Towns, who struggled for the second straight game, went to the bench with four fouls early in the third quarter. The Warriors lead ballooned to 19, and then the Wolves bench took over.
It’s hard to describe it even after watching it. The Wolves locked down on defense, at least as much as the Warriors can be locked down, and found offense in unlikely sources such as Jerryd Bayless (17 points), Anthony Tolliver (14), and Gorgui Dieng (14). They roared all the way back behind those three, Andrew Wiggins who finished with a team high 24 before fouling out (17 in the first half,) and Josh Okogie, who had 21 points and was credited with four steals and made countless defensive hustle plays for the home team. It was probably his best performance of the year and included a couple of monster threes and a huge offensive rebound in overtime.
The Wolves should have won this game in regulation, up six with two minutes left. But the Warriors are not a team that goes easily with their talent. Andre Iguodala got a dunk off a beautiful passing sequence, Bayless, who was very good overall forced up a bad shot, Curry answered with a three, and Draymond Green made one of two free throws to tie it. The Wolves could not get a good look on the final possession, with Wiggins missing two long jumpers to send the game to overtime.
Where again, the Wolves should have won a little more easily than they ultimately did. Josh Okogie made a corner three to put the Wolves up nine with 1:40 to go in the extra period. But Curry was his best self tonight, and immediately responded with a three of his own. After exchanging turnovers, Towns missed a three, and Okogie’s offensive rebound went for naught as he missed on the ensuing possession. Curry made a crazy leaning, falling three to bring the Warriors within three. Bayless went 1-2 from the line, the Warriors scored, Okogie went 1-2 from the line putting the Wolves up three and setting up a crazy sequence.
Ryan Saunders wanted the Wolves to foul, and they did on the inbounds after a timeout...but Kevin Durant buried the three along with the whistle. The Wolves got a bit fortunate that the officials ruled the foul on the floor and disallowed what would have been the game tying basket and a possible four point play. It was a marginal call I thought. No matter, however, because after another inbounds, Bayless was too spooked to foul Curry even though he dribbled the ball, and Curry made an impossible contested three from the corner with less than a second left in the game to tie it.
It looked like we were headed for a second overtime, but out of the timeout, the Wolves cleared out the back side to try to get a lob for Towns. Kevin Durant grabbed Towns as the pass was in the air, and the referee actually blew the whistle and called the foul, much to my surprise in that situation. Towns made the first free throw, and intentionally missed the second and the Wolves somehow, some way, escaped with the win.
So many story lines in this game. Andrew Wiggins started the game hot and kept the Wolves afloat in the first half and into the third quarter before going cold. Gorgui Dieng resurrecting himself to post a 14-10 double-double and lead the team with a +13. Tolliver and Bayless as I mentioned above.
One of the big stories of the game was on the glass, where the Wolves dominated to the tune of +14 total boards, and + seven on the offensive glass. That was a huge factor as it led to an advantage in both shot and free throw attempts for the Wolves, an advantage they desperately needed. Towns, who had trouble shooting it all night, collected 13 rebounds to lead the team, with five coming on the offensive glass. While eight Wolves scored in double-figures, just as importantly, seven had five or more rebounds on the night. It was an impressive collective effort.
My man of the match, though, was Okogie, despite the free throw miss that allowed Curry to tie the game at the end of overtime. He was brilliant. 21 points on 6-11 from the field and 6-8 from the line, five boards, four steals, zero turnovers. It was the absolutely perfect Okogie game—make open shots, cause turnovers, hustle relentlessly on defense and on the glass.
A note on Karl-Anthony Towns: It was a frustrating shooting night exacerbated by foul trouble for the Wolves star. But he stuck with it, made some big plays late, and finished with seven assists. He consistently found open teammates even when he must have been itching to score himself. His two baskets in overtime were from offensive rebounds; He never stopped competing and trying to help his team win. In the end, it was enough.
I know there are many who would have liked to see this end in a loss for lottery purposes, but I’m not one of them. In what has been a very difficult stretch of a disappointing season, tonight’s win felt like a reprieve, a chance to smile, and perchance to dream. Some of tonight’s key players (Bayless, Tolliver) almost certainly won’t be back, and a couple of others we hope won’t be back, but still. Seeing this team fight and scrap for this one when they could have easily coasted to a loss in the second half against a much more talented team was fun in the midst of a decidedly not fun season.
I hope you enjoyed it.