The bench had been one of the biggest concerns for Warriors faithful. But Wednesday, the reserves had a big hand in the Warriors 106-93 win over playoff hopeful Minnesota.
No doubt, the return of Harrison Barnes had something to do with it.
The second-year forward, who missed the first four games with left toe inflammation, scored 14 points on 6 of 8 shooting in his season debut. The offense off the bench was a sight for sore eyes and, coupled with hungry defense eventually wore out Minnesota.
Golden State needed production on both ends from its reserves. Klay Thompson had 30 points, and David Lee finished with 22 points and 15 rebounds, and Andre Iguodala had 20 points and six assists. But two of the Warriors’ starters weren’t much of a factor.
Point guard Stephen Curry, who totaled five points and seven assists, played just 24 minutes before leaving for good in the third quarter with a bone bruise in his left foot. Center Andrew Bogut was plagued with foul trouble most of the game before eventually being disqualified.
Plus, the Warriors starters were getting carved up by the Timberwolves offense.
But the bench changed that. Jermaine O’Neal, Draymond Green, Marreese Speights and Toney Douglas impacted the tone of the game with their aggressive, physical style. Suddenly, scoring was a fight for Minnesota.
Barnes came in and immediately provided some punch. He knocked down a jumper on his first touch. A minute later, he hit another one. Later, he converted a driving layup. It was exactly the kind of game-changing impact the Warriors expected from one of the stars of last year’s postseason run.
Led by Barnes, the Warriors’ bench outscored Minnesota 27-10. Speights, Green and O’Neal combined for 20 rebounds.
Golden State ended up holding Minnesota to 37.8 percent shooting and outrebounding the Timberwolves 49-40.
The Warriors trailed 50-47 at the half, and that was good news. Minnesota had its way with Golden State’s defense early, shooting 50 percent in the first quarter. But the Warriors’ defensive-oriented bench grinded the Timberwolves’ production to a halt.
Golden State held Minnesota to 19 points on 5 of 20 shooting in the second quarter. The Warriors weren’t lighting it up either, at least not at the pace they have all season. But they kept Minnesota from building a big lead, which Minnesota had done in each of the last four contests here.
In the third quarter, Golden State took control of the game. A 13-2 run early in the second half — seven by Thompson — put Golden State ahead 65-54 with 6:47 left in the game.
With 2:24 in the third, Minnesota guard Ricky Rubio went for a steal and wound up diving at Curry’s feet. The two got tangled and Curry came up limping. He eventually called a timeout and limped off.
The immediate reaction was that it was another ankle injury. But Curry favored his right knee. When he checked out, the trainer worked on his right knee on the sidelines. He eventually headed to the locker room. Midway through the fourth quarter, the Warriors announced it was a bone bruise in his left foot, meaning Curry suffered another injury.
Either way, the Warriors didn’t need him.
Golden State’s lead was down to five, Speights’ 3-pointer at the buzzer sent Golden state into the fourth quarter up by nine.
Thompson did the rest. He scored 13 points in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter. He went on to knock down five 3-pointers and scored 19 points in the final period.