The Warriors slip in the 4th quarter and narrowly lose to the Timberwolves

MINNEAPOLIS – The Warriors played a classy game, but when things got tough in the fourth quarter, the Timberwolves proved what the standings say: They are 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 figures and won the turnover battle, but that wasn’t enough. After outplaying the Timberwolves for three quarters, the Warriors ran out of answers at the crucial moment.

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 fighting for the playoffs fit the bill perfectly. The result completed the season sweep for Minnesota and continued a trend of the Warriors being unable to compete with the league’s elite teams.

“They’re an NBA team too,” Draymond Green said. “In the standings, they’re a much better NBA team. There can be no glitches. You will lose. And if you play against a team that is technically better than you and there are losses, you will always lose. That’s why we’re losing a lot right now.”

Despite the recent turmoil, even if it feels far from reality, the Warriors still had aspirations of being one of the smoothest sailing teams of the last month heading into Sunday night’s game.

Since January 30, only two teams had won more games than the Warriors. Golden State led the league in rebounds and assists per game during that period. They once won 10 of 12 games. They defeated the Lakers in Los Angeles and beat the Bucks by 35 points. They healed and found an identity.

But after Sunday night’s loss to the Timberwolves – a Green said Golden State “certainly” should have won – the Warriors remain firmly anchored in 10th place and in danger of being eliminated from the postseason altogether.

Golden State’s narrow loss at Target Center kicks off a five-city, three-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 one game behind Golden State at No. 10, is breathing down their necks. As Chris Paul said on Friday, no one will feel sorry for them.

Even at their best, with a fully healthy, revamped rotation centered around Green at the five, the Warriors only fleetingly looked like real contenders. There’s been a lot of talk about their strangely reversed splits between home and away teams, but the reality is much simpler: They’re now 17-29 against teams over .500 this year. They are 1-10 against Minnesota, Oklahoma City and Denver – the top three seeds in the West.

Against Minnesota, the Warriors played much more intensely after what Steve Kerr called an “alarming” film session about Golden State’s loss to Indiana.

Golden State’s defense, which had faltered in March, was bogged down against the Timberwolves. They blocked Edwards on most ball drops and handoffs on the sidelines and disrupted Minnesota’s halfcourt rhythm. The Warriors forced nine turnovers in the first quarter alone. As the game progressed, they showed Edwards different defenders and schemes.

The Warriors held Minnesota to 46 points in the first half. Even when Edwards got going late in the half, Golden State forced him into difficult shots. Naz Reid, whom Kerr called a “Warriors killer” before the game, kept the Timberwolves alive by hitting his first five 3-pointers.

Golden State led by as many as 12 points and entered halftime with an eight-point lead.

The Timberwolves increased their energy in the fourth game. It seemed like they knew they had to step it up a notch. They looked faster. Their 3s fell. With Steph Curry on the bench, Minnesota went on a 12-5 run early in the fourth quarter. Minnesota took its first lead since the opening minutes.

Curry played just 29 minutes as Kerr tries to rest him whenever he can over a stretch of five games in seven days.

“We can’t expect to take Steph game after game,” Kerr said.

The Warriors slid off the floor with Curry and couldn’t quite get back on the floor. Kerr called two timeouts to stop Minnesota’s momentum. Thompson hit a pair of 3s, Gary Payton II missed the ball and Trayce Jackson-Davis rolled to the rim for a jam and rebound within three seconds. A second-chance Curry 3 tied the game at 104.

The Warriors stayed in step, but never took the lead again. Curry raced around the court, scoring 30 points and bringing the Warriors back to within one point with 14.9 seconds left. But Thompson’s contested 3-pointer failed with six seconds left, sending the Warriors to Miami, their next city, with a loss.

To stay afloat in Florida against the Heat and Magic, the Warriors may just need more Curry minutes — at the very least.

“The situation will become pretty clear,” Curry said of his transcript. “And this is happening in real time, so to speak. Every game counts. We are approaching the other side of the table that we never thought we would make it to. No one is going to wave the white flag and say we’re sending them in. If that means I have to play more minutes, I’m willing to do that.”

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