OAKLAND, Calif. – Two nights after he set the basketball world ablaze with an implausible 50 points, Derrick Rose made merely a cameo for the Timberwolves in their 116-99 loss to the Warriors on Friday night at Oracle Arena.
First, he didn’t get the start for the injured Jeff Teague. Tyus Jones, returning from a one-game absence, did instead. Then Rose played only five minutes in the first half and attempted one shot before exiting because of left ankle soreness.
This span of 48 hours encapsulated Rose’s career — amazing physical skill that is unmatched by few in the NBA when healthy, but that health is a constant question mark, especially given how violent Rose’s style of play can be.
While Rose exited the lineup, Jimmy Butler returned to it as the Wolves began a five-game West Coast road trip vs. the two-time defending champions. Everything actually went well for the Wolves for three quarters before the Warriors juggernaut finally caught up to them … then sprinted past in the fourth quarter.
The Wolves led 87-83 after the third quarter, but then Golden State found an extra gear that the Warriors, and possibly nobody else in the NBA, have. The Warriors hit nine of their first 15 shots of the quarter and flipped that deficit into a 15-point lead.
“They just went on one of their runs. They’re known for that,” said Jones, who had eight points, nine assists and five rebounds. “We have to do a better job sustaining and not let the runs get so big.”
Klay Thompson hit three three-pointers in the opening two minutes, obliterating the Wolves’ lead and sending Golden State on to its ninth victory in 10 games to open the season. Thompson finished with 22 points, Kevin Durant had 33 and Stephen Curry had 28. Andrew Wiggins had 22 to lead the Wolves and Butler finished with 21.
The final fourth-quarter breakdown: Golden State shot 13-for-22 from the floor and scored 33 points. The Wolves shot 5-for-23 and scored 12. The Warriors also enjoyed a 61-39 advantage on the boards.
“It’s our job to make it as hard as possible to hit shots like that,” Wolves center Karl-Anthony Towns said. “I think we did a good job making it difficult on them the whole night, it’s just that when they start hitting shots, we just stopped.”
Said Jones: “[The Warriors] do a great job of shooting the ball and they’re very unselfish. They pass up a good shot to get a great shot.”
The Warriors’ fourth quarter mirrored their opening to the game, the other time when it seemed they were on a different basketball plane. Golden State started out hitting 12 of its first 15 shots and led by as many as 12 a little over six minutes in. But the rest of the quarter, the Wolves found their footing thanks in part to their bench.
The Wolves locked in defensively and forced the Warriors to shoot 10-for-32 the rest of the half. The Warriors went into the locker room with a 61-58 lead.
To keep pace with Golden State, the Wolves had the mind-set they were going to chuck it from deep. They tried 45 three-pointers, 11 more than the bombs-away Warriors.
After halftime, Wiggins played his best quarter of basketball since returning from a quad contusion that caused him to miss three games. He hit three three-pointers as the Wolves outscored the Warriors 29-22 in the third quarter to take their four-point lead.
Thibodeau said the Wolves weren’t getting great shots in the fourth quarter.
“They can hit you with a run and their defense got turned up [in the fourth quarter],” Thibodeau said. “The thing you have to is when you drive the ball, if they collapse you have to make the play. I thought we did that early on and did a good job taking care of the ball. … I liked the threes we got — for the most part.”
The “most part” would be those first three quarters. If only the night ended there.