To Kevin Love, Wednesday night’s Timberwolves home game against high-flying Golden State was an early-season status report, an early-November mettle detector of sorts.
“I thought defensively it was going to show where we are,” Love said. “I think it was kind of fool’s gold. We’re a better team than that.”
The Warriors’ 106-93 victory — sealed with a 56-point second half at Target Center in which Klay Thompson scored 26 of his 30 points — can be attributed to a lot of Wolves troubles.
An offense that bogged down after a strong first quarter. A bench that squandered momentum all night long.
But to Love, the biggest problem was defense, despite the Wolves holding the Warriors’ high-scoring backcourt of Thompson and Stephen Curry to 3-for-14 shooting in the first half. Even with those problems, the Wolves were still within three with four-plus minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Wolves coach Rick Adelman said his team lacked rhythm just about everywhere. To Love, that was especially true on defense.
“There were a lot of times — and I was guilty of this, too — where I was throwing my hands up [and thinking] where is the weak-side help?” Love said. “And you know, our offense. It was a little complacent sometimes. Sometimes we didn’t share the ball. Sometimes it was one pass and a shot. But our defense has been what has helped us the first four games. In this fifth one, tonight? It just didn’t.”
Credit the beefed-up Warriors lineup that they were still ahead by three after a streak-filled first half in which Thompson and Curry — who eventually left the game because of a bruised foot — struggled. Credit David Lee (22 points, 15 rebounds), Andre Iguodala (20 points) and Harrison Barnes, who, back from his own foot injury, scored 14 points off the bench in his season debut.
Love had 25 points and 16 rebounds, Kevin Martin scored 23 points and Corey Brewer had 18. But the Wolves struggled to 37.8 percent shooting at one end while allowing the Warriors to hit half their shots, making the Wolves pay for almost every one of their 19 turnovers.
“I think, on offense and defense, we didn’t play as a team,” said point guard Ricky Rubio, who struggled again with his shot (2-for-8) to score seven points with seven assists. “That is something we have to improve. We have to share the ball, communicate. Tonight was tough.”
For all that, the Wolves, down 11 midway through the third quarter, pulled within 67-64 on Brewer’s three-point play with 4 minutes, 13 seconds remaining. But Golden State responded by scoring the next eight points — Iguodala had four of them — to push the lead back to 11.
With the Wolves down eight to start the fourth, Thompson, matched up with the much smaller J.J. Barea, scored 19 fourth-quarter points to seal the game for the Warriors (4-1), whose four victories have all come by double-digit margins.
The Wolves have lost two in a row after opening the season 3-0.
“Tonight we learned a lesson about playing together for 48 minutes — and playing hard for 48 minutes,” Martin said. “We have to look at the tape, see where we went wrong. We’re still a pretty solid team. But we have some work to do.”