Before Kobe Bryant and his fan caravan come to Target Center next month on what might be his unofficial farewell tour, Golden State’s Stephen Curry and his growing legion arrived there for Thursday night’s 129-116 victory over the Timberwolves.
As one superstar says goodbye, another is saying hello.
Like Bryant has done for years, Curry now is bringing a multitude of fans wearing his blue No. 30 Warriors jersey to out-of-town arenas, all of them attracted by a big-top circus show that didn’t disappoint, perhaps not even loyal Wolves fans.
Their hometown team tried to keep pace with the reigning league MVP and the defending NBA champions, who have marched their way to a perfect 10-0 start.
Bringing Kevin Garnett back to a starting lineup that also includes fellow defensive specialist Tayshaun Prince, the Wolves fell behind 10-0, 46-28 and 97-76 by late in the third quarter before their reserves, led by 39-year-old point guard Andre Miller and 32-year-old Kevin Martin, got them back in the game with an 18-2 run that ended the third quarter and started the fourth.
Three times, the Wolves pulled within five points but never got any closer. Curry again scored every which way, including a distant three-pointer he practically shot-putted after nearly losing control of the ball.
“It seems like when you’re up on him, he just shoots the ball from farther,” Wolves forward Shabazz Muhammad said. “That’s how it is. He looked like he was shooting it from half-court.”
The league’s leading scorer with a 31.9-point average entering the game, Curry made eight three-pointers and scored 46 points on 15-for-25 shooting while teammates such as Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and Harrison Barnes played their usual important supporting roles.
Afterward, Warriors interim coach Luke Walton termed Curry’s productive night “decent” and gave Green and his playmaking credit for being “awesome.”
Just imagine what Curry might have done had he been more than decent: He compiled his third 40-point game already this season, and his 21 first-quarter points was his fourth 20-point quarter this season. Only two other NBA players, Portland’s C.J. McCollum and Detroit’s Reggie Jackson, have done that once each this season.
When it was all over, the Wolves had lost by 13 points, five fewer than the Warriors’ average margin of victory through their first nine games. When it was all over, Wolves interim coach Sam Mitchell seemed to take some solace in that it took Curry’s 46 points and Green’s 23-point, 12-assist, eight-rebound game, among other contributions, to beat his team.
“It took their best game,” Mitchell said. “It took Steph, it took Draymond Green, it took all those guys. It took their best game to beat us and that’s what you want.”
The Wolves got Garnett and young star Andrew Wiggins back in the lineup after each missed Tuesday’s home loss to Charlotte but played without point guard Ricky Rubio (mild hamstring strain) for the second consecutive game.
Afterward, Martin said his young team needs to move beyond moral victories while also acknowledging he and his teammates just got beat by the league’s best team and perhaps its most dynamic player.
“He’s such a special player in an unbelievable rhythm right now,” Martin said. “He’s a joy to watch but not a joy to play.”