The Warriors have their first win streak of the season and are back above .500.
Yes, Golden State was playing a depleted team. The Timberwolves were missing six of their top seven players due to injury: forwards Kevin Love, point guard Ricky Rubio, center Nikola Pekovic, swingman Brandon Roy, forward Chase Budinger and guard J.J. Barea.
Yes, Golden State had a 14-point lead with 7:58 and wound up needing to eke out a victory against the aforementioned second-string squad.
But from the perspective of the bigger picture, the Warriors got some much-needed experience at winning. And they did it while winning, hanging on for a 106-98 victory at the Target Center. In the end, Golden State walked away with a win they had to have.
STEPHEN CURRY: “The final score is obviously the most important thing. We might have done ourselves a disservice tonight letting it get interesting down the stretch, letting them come back. But being able to withstand a run like that on the road, that’s a good way to win”
You’d half expect Mark Jackson to be upset that his team blew a lead to the Timberwolves’ JV squad. But what benefit is there in a blow-out road win over a bad team. The Warriors are a work in progress. They have been besieged by inexperience. In the long run, close games are better for them, even if they are a result of a little choking.
Friday, Golden State had to do all of the following:
* Make good decisions to get key buckets at crucial moments. They needed one badly and the play was for Curry, who moved to SG. He often curls off the screen, catches the ball and pivots backwards, bringing the step-back 3-pointer in play. This time, he caught the ball near the left elbow and didn’t give any ground with his pivot. He sized up his options from right where he caught it, which led to a stationary 20-footer he nailed instead of a step-back 3-pointer. His jumper ended a 9-0 Minnesota run.
Minutes later, David Lee got the ball in the post, the Warriors up 94-91 inside of three minutes left. He executed what seems to be a budding go-to move: get the ball at mid post, cross to the right and spin back left for a hook off the glass.
* Get defensive stops. The Timberwolves were held to 3-for-11 from the field over the last four minutes. Most important, when the game was really decided — between the 4:02 mark and the 1:36 mark, when a Harrison Barnes dunk all but put the game away — the Warriors got four straight stops. Before that stretch, Minnesota was 8 of 15 from the field.
* Rebound when they needed a rebound most. Minnesota’s only two offensive rebounds down the stretch came in the chaos of the final 30 seconds, long caroms off desperate 3-pointers, when the game was pretty over.
All valuable experience.
MARK JACKSON: “They made plays. They’re at home. They started making shots. … We knew they’d make a run. Some of it was mistakes by us. But give them credit. At the end of the day, I’m very happy that my guys made the plays necessary to be made to allow us to leave here with a win.”
More on Friday’s victory …
WRITER’S RANT: Sorry Warriors, but you can’t tout your depth relentlessly, then bring up how you’re missing two players. You can’t get praise for putting together a deep team AND cash in on the injury excuse because you’re down a starting center you never had and a sixth man.
It’s not the same that Bogut was out and Horford was out, because your strength is depth. You’ve been hanging your hat on the fact that each position has a second guy where the drop off isn’t that bad. Actually, you could argue two of your best players (Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack) are back-ups.
It’s a slight to Festus Ezeli and Landry to say you’re in the same boat as Minnesota, which started Greg Stiemsma at center because Nikola Pekovic is out. It doesn’t fly to say you’re debilitated by the loss of Brandon Rush because it means more minutes for Harrison Barnes, the No. 7 overall pick.
If you lose, you can’t fall back on the we’re-missing-Bogut-and-Rush because you’ve built this team to withstand injuries. If you can’t win with this depth you’ve touted, then you are not as deep as you said you were and that talking point needs to be extinguished.
MVP: David Lee
He had 18 points, 13 rebounds and 3 assists. He made 8 of 15 from the field, which is an improvement over his recent percentages. His offense was key in the run that erased the Timberwolves’ second-quarter lead and during the third-quarter run that pulled the Warriors ahead. He also had a key basket down the stretch. Most important, Lee led the Warriors’ rebounding push, as Golden State outrebounded Minnesota 50-34.
MDP: Klay Thompson
He couldn’t find his shot again, but he kept chucking away. Thompson finished 5 of 14 from the field, 1 of 6 from 3-point range. He did have the flu, and eventually checked out for good late in the third quarter after nearly 28 minutes.
JACKSON: “It was a side of me that didn’t even think he was going to play. I was getting ready to send him back to the hotel to give him rest. But he gutted it out and gave us everything he had.”
Thompson said he felt terrible before the game but was good enough to go after a pre-game vomit. He said he didn’t have much energy out there and eventually his condition regressed. When the fourth quarter began, Thompson was back in the locker room vomiting again.
Often, being sick or injured, leads players to play more efficient. The focus is higher because of the physical limitations. They pick their spots instead of forcing the action. But Thompson tried to shoot his way out of the flu. It was the latest sign in his need to mature.
KEY MOMENT: After taking control of the game in the second quarter, the Warriors created a cushion in the third. They went on a 12-2 run to build an 11-point lead. Barnes got it started with a turn-around jumper. Then Curry picked Luke Ridnour’s pocket and turned it into a break-away, one-handed dunk.
“I think my dunk kind of sparked everybody to attack,” Curry said, unable to hold a straight face. “It was Candace Parker, Britney Griner and Seth Curry all rolled into one.”
After another stop, Curry dropped in a 12-footer, followed by a turnaround bank shot by David Lee. Moments later, a follow dunk by Harrison Barnes and another layup by Lee had the Warriors ahead 65-54. It turned out to be a cushion they seriously needed.
YEAH, WHAT HE SAID: “If we can get Steph to stop fouling out, we’ll be all right.” — Jarrett Jack, making sure Curry, next to him the locker room, could hear.
COACH’S CORNER: Mark Jackson, after the game, handed out CDs to his player. It was a copy of Lecrae’s “Gravity” album. He scored them when Lecrae, the Jay-Z of Christian rap, delivered the message during the pre-game chapel service.
But Jackson gave out more than free CDs. Most important, he’s given Harrison Barnes a chance to succeed. It may come off as subtle, but a switch in approach with Barnes has really led to the rookie finding his groove.
Formerly, Barnes lived out by the three point line. That was too far for him to really take advantage of his skills. But lately,Jackson has pushed him in more. Many of his touches start closer, so Barnes is one dribble away from a power move to the basket. Sometimes it’s a curl, sometimes it’s a post up. But clearly, the new mindset for Barnes is attack, attack, attack.
Jackson has managed Barnes well from the beginning and it’s paying off now.
TELLING STAT: The Timberwolves shot 37.8 percent in the second half. They were hot to start, making 50 percent of their shots in the first half. But they relied heavily on jumpers and, as Warriors fans know, those don’t keep falling at such a high clip. Minnesota was 4 of 13 from 3-point range in the second half and were outscored 58-22 in the paint.
RICK ADELMAN: “We just didn’t do enough. They hurt us on dribble penetration. They hurt us on the boards. They just attacked us around the basket. Way too many points in the paint. … We just gave them too many opportunities at the basket.”
The Warriors have outscored their last two opponents (Atlanta and Minnesota) 104-42 in the paint. Of course, both opponents have been missing their starting center. But then again, so are the Warriors.
SERIOUSLY?: The Warriors are 5th in the NBA in rebounding. … Let me say that again. The Warriors are 5th in the NBA in rebounding. Above Utah. Above Chicago. Above Memphis and Dallas and Sacramento. Sounds weird, huh?
Golden State is grabbing 45.6 per game and is eighth in the league with a +2.78 rebound differential.
KEY MOMENT II: With 2:49 left in the game, and Curry (fouled out) and Klay Thompson (flu) out of action, Mark Jackson turned to Charles Jenkins. The second-year guard immediately delivered.
Working from the top, he got by Luke Ridnour with a crossover, slithered past the help defense and banked in a lefty layup with 2 minutes left. That put the Warriors ahead 98-91 and really took the wind out of Minnesota’s sails.
BEFORE YOU GO: Two Warriors rookies are playing really well though the stat sheet won’t show it. Festus Ezeli, who played 16 minutes, totaling 4 points, 5 rebounds and a block. More than that, he was physical. He was a presence at the rim. And it is downright refreshing to see him hold his ground in the paint and bump opponents passing through the lane. The other rook is Draymond Green. His minutes are increasing lately. He played 11 minutes, grabbed 4 rebounds and dished two assists. He makes so many of the little plays — the extra pass, the block out that allows another player to get a rebound, the timely rotation that discourages the pass. He’s a very heady player who helps make things flow well. Don’t expect big numbers from him, but he does a lot of positive things out there.