Warriors Use Third Quarter Surge To Beat Wolves, 97-94

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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It was only one play, a drive to the basket that took fewer than five seconds from start to finish. But for coach Rick Adelman and the Minnesota Timberwolves, it was about as telling a play as any in Wednesday’s 97-94 loss to the Golden State Warriors.

With 20.4 seconds left on the clock and the game tied 94-94, Warriors guard Charles Jenkins nearly lost the ball at the 3-point line, regained his poise and headed for the basket. Head down and streaking to the lane, Jenkins drained a lay-up that put struggling Golden State up for good.

The key? Minnesota simply didn’t rotate quickly enough on defense to force the shot or draw an offensive foul. Instead, Golden State polished off a win that included a 20-point comeback and an unmatched intensity in the second half.

“All we had to do was have someone step in; he puts his head down and went to the basket,” Adelman said. “I don’t care if he passes it to a wide-open shooter. He’s going to run you right over and it’s going to be our ball. We hesitated to get there.”

The Wolves looked like they’d end their three-game losing streak in grand style on Wednesday, storming out to a 20-point lead in the second quarter that included holding Golden State to 39 points in the first half. Minnesota limited the Warriors’ field-goal attempts, held them to 25 percent shooting from 3-point range and held a definitive 26-14 advantage in the paint.

But with 1:37 left in the second, everything changed. Minnesota’s lead began to dwindle one basket after another. Over the course of the next 11:30, the Warriors went on a 46-19 run that changed the complexion of the game.

Adelman said the Wolves’ intensity changed and never recovered. Forward Kevin Love said it was an excusable performance.

“We just went lax and that’s it,” Love said. “We should beat that team.”

Love was again a bright spot for the Wolves, scoring a team-high 29 points and adding 12 rebounds on the night. He pulled down five offensive boards on his own—Golden State had eight as a team—but it was the Warriors that got the offensive boards when it counted late in the game. The Warriors pulled down a 22-4 advantage in points in the paint during the third quarter alone, which changed the complexion of the game for good.

“Very, very poor effort and very poor defense,” Love said. “Those kind of go together. It’s just effort. Guys saying OK, I want to get a couple stops here and there and we didn’t do it.”

Center Nikola Pekovic, who made his first start since the Wolves’ last game against Golden State on March 19—a 97-93 win—said the team needed to make adjustments and didn’t do it.

Similar to their last meeting, Golden State came out firing in the third. The Warriors outscored Minnesota 32-22 in the third on March 19, and they pulled together a 38-20 effort against Minnesota on Wednesday.

“We talked about that at halftime,” Adelman said. “The last time we played these guys we were kind of up the same way at their place and they came out and dominated the third quarter on us. The first five minutes has to be ours. There was no intention of taking that game over.”

Guard Wayne Ellington finished with 17 points off the bench and hit 3-of-5 shots from 3-point range. He hit a pair in the fourth quarter that helped Minnesota chip away and turn a nine-point deficit into a tie game late. Guard JJ Barea, who missed six straight games coming into Wednesday with a right thigh contusion, scored 15 points and added eight assists. Wes Johnson had 12 points and Pekovic had 10 points.

For Golden State, forward David Lee led the way with 31 points on 13-of-25 shooting. Jenkins had 19 points and seven assists, Richard Jefferson and Klay Thompson each had 13 points and Dorell Wright had 11.

The Warriors forced 19 turnovers and turned those miscues into 24 points.

Love said the Wolves need to regroup, try to rest up and get back to basics. But the biggest priority for Minnesota as they have two off days before traveling to New Orleans on Saturday is igniting the team’s defensive effort.

“It’s been frustrating the past 14-16 games, we’ve had a major let down,” Love said. “We’ve just got to keep fighting.”

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