Warriors slip in 4th quarter in tight loss to Timberwolves


MINNEAPOLIS — The Warriors showed up with their top-shelf game, but when the going got tough in the fourth quarter, the Timberwolves proved what the standings say: they’re a class above Golden State.

Golden State forced Anthony Edwards (23 points, eight assists, six rebounds) to be a playmaker, had five scorers in double digits and won the turnover battle, but it wasn’t enough. After outplaying the Timberwolves for three quarters, the Warriors ran out of answers when it mattered most.

In a 114-110 loss, the Warriors (36-34) allowed 36 points in the fourth quarter. The game had playoff intensity, and the team actually contending for the playoffs fit right in. The result completed a season sweep for Minnesota, continuing the trend of the Warriors not being able to hang with the league’s elite teams.

Despite recent turbulence, the Warriors still had a claim as one of the smoothest sailing teams over the past month entering Sunday night’s game.

Since Jan. 30, only two teams had won more games than the Warriors. Golden State led the league in rebounds and assists per game in that stretch. They won 10 of 12 at one point. They beat the Lakers in Los Angeles and thumped the Bucks by 35. They got healthy and found an identity.

But after Sunday night’s loss to the Timberwolves, the Warriors remain firmly entrenched in 10th and in danger of falling out of the postseason altogether.

Golden State’s close defeat in the Target Center tips off a five-city, triple time-zone week that includes two more games this week against Eastern Conference playoff contenders in Miami and Orlando.

The Warriors have four more games in the next six days. Houston, now a game behind Golden State for the 10th seed, is breathing down their necks. As Chris Paul said last Friday, nobody’s going to feel sorry for them.

Even at their best, with a fully healthy revamped rotation centered around Draymond Green at the five, the Warriors have only occasionally looked like a true contender. Much has been made about their curiously inverted home-road splits, but the reality is much simpler: against teams above .500, they’re now 17-29 on the year. They’re 1-10 against Minnesota, Oklahoma City and Denver — the top three seeds in the West.

After what Steve Kerr called an “alarming” film session over Golden State’s loss to Indiana, the Warriors played with much more intensity.

Golden State’s defense, which has slipped in March, was locked in against the Timberwolves. They trapped star guard Anthony Edwards on mostball screens and handoffs on the perimeter, jamming up Minnesota’s halfcourt rhythm. In the first quarter alone, the Warriors forced nine turnovers.

The Warriors held Minnesota to 46 first-half points. Even when Edwards got going toward the end of the half, Golden State was forcing him into difficult shots. Naz Reid, whom Steve Kerr tabbed a “Warriors killer” before the game, kept the Timberwolves alive by hitting his first five 3-pointers.

Golden State led by as much as 12 and went into halftime with an eight-point edge.

Whenever the Timberwolves threatened to make a familiar second-half comeback run, the Warriors had answers. After back-to-back 3-pointers late in the third, Klay Thompson and Chris Paul drilled tough jumpers. Still, a three-point lead entering the fourth was tenuous.

Then the Timberwolves ramped up their energy. It seemed like they knew they had another gear to kick into. They looked faster. Their 3s fell. With a 12-5 run to start the fourth quarter, Minnesota claimed their first lead since the opening minutes.

The Warriors slipped and couldn’t fully regain their footing. Kerr called a pair of timeouts to try to stop Minnesota’s momentum. Thompson hit a pair of 3s, Gary Payton II tipped in a miss and Trayce Jackson-Davis rolled to the rim for a jam to claw back within three. A second-chance Steph Curry 3 knotted the game at 104.

The Warriors stayed in lockstep, but never took the lead again. Curry raced down the court to crack 30 points and bring the Warriors back within one with 14.9 seconds left. But Thompson’s contested 3-pointer rimmed out with six seconds left, sending the Warriors to Miami, their next city, on a loss.

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