Playing their fourth game in five nights — the fifth in a seven-day span — the road-weary Golden State Warriors would have been forgiven for faltering to a young and bouncy Minnesota team who had the luxury of resting the night before. When the T-Wolves outscored the Warriors 30-18 in the third quarter to take a 10-point advantage, it looked like Golden State was about to succumb to the dreaded “schedule loss,” in NBA parlance.
But then–enter the Warriors’ Death(ly Older) Lineup. David West (36), Andre Igoudala (32) and Shaun Livingston (31), flanked by Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, led a decisive 28-6 fourth-quarter run that turned a double-digit deficit into a 12-point lead. Igoudala was brilliant defensively (2 blocks on Zach Lavine in one possession); West was stout at center (Karl-Anthony Towns mustered only two shots in the final stanza); and Livingston was a ball hawk and timely scorer (3-point play to push the rally).
The Warriors’ bench may not be as deep this season, but with three cagey veterans anchoring the defense and KD and Klay to balance out the scoring, the Dubs demonstrated that their second unit can run with anyone.
Here are 10 thoughts on the game:
1. The Warriors played their best quarter of basketball in the final frame on Sunday night since beating the Clippers in LA four games ago. In addition to scorching the net for 38 points on 21 shots, Golden State smothered the Wolves defensively, compiling 3 blocks and 3 steals while grabbing 11 rebounds to Minnesota’s 9. The Dubs dominated in every facet of the game in the final stanza and turned an acceptable loss (given the fatigue) into a galvanizing victory.
2. The decisive 86 seconds: West blocks Andrew Wiggins’ jumper, which leads to a KD slashing layup. Shaun Livingston swipes the ball from Wiggins and assists on Klay’s 3-pointer. Two plays later, West again thwarts a shot attempt, this time a Lavine layup, and Durant drops a triple on the other end.
3. With KD firing blanks for most of the contest and Steph mired in a mini-slump, Klay came alive in the final 12 minutes with 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting (30 for the game). The Warriors’ top scorers are like waves at a beach: you can try to repel one or two but eventually one is going to slam up against your defenses and knock you down.
4. After a season-high 23 turnovers versus Memphis, the Dubs had a season-low eight giveaways. Not losing possession of the ball is one way to survive a combined 12-of-34 shooting night from Curry and Durant.
5. The Durant-era Warriors are weird. Steph and Dray both finished with a negative Plus-Minus (-6 and -12 respectively). KD shot 6-of-21… and the Dubs win by eight.
6. Looney looked mostly okay jumping center (4 points, 3 boards). He got fooled by Towns into two early fouls but he also rolled nicely to the rim once and scrambled adequately to cover a Ricky Rubio three. For the Warriors in the regular season, that’s enough. What’s important is that he knew where to go and, perhaps more vital, where not to go. Unlike Anderson Varejao, Looney didn’t jam the offense and confuse his teammates with his unpredictable herky-jerky movements. He ate up 18 minutes and didn’t kill the team. Even better, no fan (i.e. me) suffered an ulcer while writing this Rewind.
7. Did Dray steal Steph’s 3-point powers like a real life Rogue from X-men? Traymond shot 5-of-8 from downtown and his offense in the first half kept the Warriors in the game. Green has made 13 of his last 20 triples. Curry is 8-of-33 (24%) during that same span.
8. Tired legs or regression to the mean? KD is 25-of-65 on field goals on this road trip. His career-high 57 percent field goal percentage is down to 53.6 percent
9. West has shown good vision and a deft touch from the elbow when finding cutters, especially paired with Ian Clark or Klay. He’s not afraid to sling a fireball into the slightest of air spaces as demonstrated when he hadouken’d a pass to Klay for a layup.
10. My baby nephew has never lived in a world where the Warriors lost two regular-season games in a row — the last time that happened was over 18 months ago. Baby Benjamin is a lucky kid.