Harrison Barnes had been shackled for a month. You could tell by the hyperactivity when he finally got his first action of the season. He came in and immediately took a 21-footer, on his first touch, nine seconds after checking in. He got a steal right away on defense, then turned it over with a traveling violation. His next touch, one possession later, he took another 21-footer.
He checked in at the 5:33 mark of the second quarter, and 34 seconds later he had four points on 2-for-2 shooting with a steal and a turnover.
“I was just trying to get the jitters out,” Barnes said. “(Andrew) Bogut just told me to breathe.”
Barnes wasn’t the only one happy he was back. The entire Warriors fan base, which had been pining for his return from left toe inflammation, was no doubt thrilled to see Golden State’s budding young star on the court. And he looked pretty good.
He scored 14 points in a game where the bench was the star as the Warriors beat Minnesota, 106-93, for their most meaningful victory of the season. With Barnes providing offense, the usual goon squad took care of the defense, shutting down Timberwolves offense.
“I thought our bench was huge – scoring, rebounding and defending,” coach Mark Jackson said. “Guys came in and gave great minutes and it was a thing of beauty. Harrison was very good for his first game, gave us scoring bunch of the bench made a huge pass to Moe for an open three. It was a good win for us, against a team that other than one night had been playing very, very well.”
More on Wednesday’s win ….
Most Valuable Player (MVP)…
Klay Thompson. When this dude catches fire … geez. He scored 19 in the fourth quarter to put the game away for the Warriors. Golden State was in that space where the game could’ve went either way. A few mistakes, a scoring drought, and it becomes a tight game. A few baskets and a few stops, it’s over. Klay provided the baskets. Several of them. Not bad after Jackson had to get into him at halftime, mostly for letting Rubio get by him off the dribble and failing to get back on defense a couple times.
“He just told me to wake up and that’s not the player he knows,” Thompson said. “And try to do it on both ends.”
Most Disappointing Player (MDP) …
Stephen Curry. He followed his triple-double with a quiet outing. But he made MDP for his defense. He consistently lost sight of Corey Brewer and was a big reason Minnesota had their way in the early going.
KEY MOMENT 1
Dante Cunningham hit a jumper at the 11:41 mark of the second quarter, putting Minnesota up 30-26. That was the Timberwolves last basket for the next six minutes, 17 seconds.
Golden State’s reserves — Toney Douglas, Draymond Green, Marreese Speights, Jermaine O’Neal — along with Thompson shut down Minnesota. They didn’t score again until a free throw by Kevin Martin at the 7:22 mark — after five bricks and three turnovers.
By the 6:16 mark of the second quarter, all the Timberwolves starters were back in. But the Warriors had already turned a four-point deficit into a 40-33 lead.
“Our bench really took advantage of theirs tonight,” Curry said. “I think they were shooting 60-something percent in the first quarter, and then in the second quarter the second group comes in and goes on a huge run and gets a lot of stops.”
The Warriors racked up 12 steals, three by Iguodala and two each by David Lee and Harrison Barnes. The steals fueled the transition game, which produced 20 points on 8 of 11. It was a big reason Minnesota’s 19 turnovers turned into 26 points for Golden State.
Conversely, the Warriors had 21 turnovers that led to just 10 points for the Timberwolves.
WHAT WAS THAT?…
Andre Iguodala told me he usually misses one dunk a year. He’s already up to two.
Granted, if he had dunked this one, it would’ve been ridiculous. He drove baseline, took off one side of the rim and — after hanging in the air and cocking it back with one hand — tried to throw it down on the other end. It banged off the rim.
“Man,” he said with a smile. “The degree of difficulty on that was pretty high. But that is two missed dunks. Really three if you count the …”
Instead of finishing that sentence with words, Iguodala flailed his hands like he was freeing a dove. Instead, he was talking about a play where he inadvertently freed the ball.
It was a brilliant 30-second stretch for Iguodala that he was all set to cap with a break-away dunk. He picked off a Kevin Love pass and turned that into a 3-pointer, putting the Warrior sup 11. On the ensuing defensive series, he stole J.J. Barea’s pass and was preparing to throw down a fast-break dunk.
But on his way up … um … he lost the ball … for no apparent reason … out of bounds.
AT LEAST WE LEARNED …
The Warriors can afford to have Andrew Bogut struggle sometimes because Jermaine O’Neal is still a defensive presence. Bogut played just over 16 minutes before fouling out. But O’Neal mimicked the toughness and physicality Bogut brings to the lineup. The 18th year vet is still struggling on offense, finish with five points on 1 of 4 shooting. But on defense, he’s been solid.
He doesn’t let anyone come in the key untouched. His 3 blocks showed can still protect the rim, and six rebounds in 25 minutes ain’t too bad either. O’Neal brings some bully to the Warriors. He is not afraid to plant the hard foul. He is willing to bang and he takes no mess. He and Bogut are turning out to be quite the WWF tag team.
KEY MOMENT II…
Golden State’s lead was down to five but Speights drilled a 3-pointer at the buzzer. Then, early in the fourth quarter, Thompson caught fire.
He started with a 12-footer over Barea, putting the Warriors up 83-73. Two possessions later, his 3-pointer put Golden State up 11.
Barea answered with a jumper and Thompson responded with a step-back 3 over Barea. Golden State led by 12. Thompson scored his 13th straight point on the next possession, an easy 19 footer. Even with the starters in, Minnesota when scoreless for the next three minutes.
Thompson all put the Warriors up 99-81 with another 3-pointer at the 5:52 mark, taking the life out of the Timberwolves.
COACH’S CORNER …
* Not sure why teams ever put a small guy on him. He’s 6-foot-7. He gets good lift on his jumper. He catches and releases high. And he gets it off quick. If you’re a little guy, you’ll have a tough time defending him. If you’re J.J. Barea, you don’t stand a chance. And the Timberwolves did this in the fourth quarter, made it easy money for Thompson. What I like about Jackson, and this seems to be a theme, is he milks it every time. Every time. Jackson said, after Klay managed just seven shots following a 38-point game, that the Warriors don’t run their offense through Klay. But if a little guy finds his way to Klay, whether it is Steve Blake or Isaiah Thomas or J.J. Barea, Klay becomes the center of the offense. Imagine that. Golden State punishing teams for going small.
* Jackson’s early dedication to the bench paid off in Minnesota. Again, this is the difference between playing to win a game and playing for a big season. Bearing through the bricks of Jermaine O’Neal and Marreese Speights keeps them buying in on defense. Speights’ jumper appears to be coming around. But all of them are bringing a hunger and tenacity on the defensive end. Jackson said his primary concern is them changing the tenor of the game with defense. Whatever offensive they give, apparently, is bonus. His approach is working thus far.
* Jackson had one questionable move midway through the second quarter. Proved not to hurt the Warriors, but it was interesting nonetheless. Bogut, who is no stranger to hacking, picked up his third foul not even two minutes after he checked back into the game. Jackson didn’t take him out though (usually when your fouls are ahead of the quarter, you sit). That was at the 5:39 mark. Jackson just trusting his big man, right?
At the 5:01 mark, guess who picked up their fourth foul? No. We didn’t see that coming.
WHAT HE SAID …
“They are a pretty good team. They made us work for everything, that’s why they are one of the top teams in the West. Tonight we learned a lesson of playing together for 48 minutes and playing hard for 48 minutes.” — Kevin Martin
TRENDING TOPIC …
The Timberwolves finished at 37.8 percent shooting, while the Warriors shot 50 percent. That’s a field goal differential of 12.2 percent. That’s pretty large.
But what is really absurd is that it is the norm so far.
Golden State is shooting 50.2 percent from the field (second only to Miami) while holding opponents to 39.2 percent shooting (second only to Indiana).
From 3-point range, the Warriors are shooting 45.9 percent while holding opponents to 28.3 percent from behind the arc — a 17.3 percent difference.
Golden State is limiting teams to 20.6 assists per game while racking up 27.8 per game (second only to Miami).
It goes without saying, if this trend holds up, the Warriors will be just fine.
“It was a combination of teams missing shots but mostly our defense,” Jackson said. “We are making good teams work. It’s been a great spot for us.”
BEFORE YOU GO …
I’m sure you noticed, but when Stephen Curry went out with his injury, Toney Douglas did not come in. Instead, Point Andre took over.
“I have guys that I believe in,” Jackson said. “Versatility showed. Andre showed how important he is, comfortable moving over to handling the basketball and facilitating our offense. Hopefully Steph will be fine and we continue to march on.”
Curry was knocked out of the game twice, the first time after tweaking his right knee, the second time after hurting his left ankle. As unnerving as it is for fans when Curry is injured, it was a good early season test. If they weren’t already, games like Wednesday helps build the team’s confidence when Iguodala is running the show.
The reality is you don’t need Curry to play 82 games. If he misses 10 games, no one loses sleep as long as someone is there to run the show. Looks like Andre can.
“That’s why we’re so deep,” Curry said. “I’m back here in the locker room and we go on a huge run. It’s a good problem to have when you have so much talent. Everybody can step up at any given time.”