A brutal final leg of the Timberwolves season got off on the wrong foot Tuesday at Target Center.
Playing a Golden State team that lost at San Antonio on Monday night, the Wolves were unable to keep pace with the high-scoring Warriors and eventually succumbed to the defending league champions 117-107.
In the process, the Wolves (32-39), who lost their fourth consecutive game, edged closer to being officially eliminated from playoff contention.
“We have to keep playing as if we’re going to make it,” said Karl-Anthony Towns, who scored 26 points with 21 rebounds. “There is still a mathematical chance. I know it sounds corny, but it’s true.”
Towns recorded his sixth game this season with at least 20 points and 20 rebounds, which ranks second in the NBA behind Pistons center Andre Drummond, who has posted a 20-20 game 12 times.
The Wolves had their runs Tuesday. A 22-4 first-quarter run put them up 13. A 14-2 run to start the third quarter drew the Wolves into a 61-61 tie on Josh Okogie’s three-pointer. They cut Golden State’s 20-point lead early in the fourth quarter to nine with 2:27 left to go.
But each time the Warriors shrugged it off and put together a run of their own, never losing control of the game.
Klay Thompson scored 15 of his 28 points in the first quarter, which ended with the Warriors up three. Reserve Jonas Jerebko had 14 of his 18 in the second, which ended with Golden State up 12. Stephen Curry had 22 of his 36 points in the third quarter, as the Warriors’ lead was pushed to 16. And Kevin Durant scored 12 of his 17 in the fourth as the Warriors (48-22) played tag-team with a talented roster the injury-riddled Wolves couldn’t keep pace with.
“They come at you in waves,” Wolves interim coach Ryan Saunders said. “They got three of the best shooters in the world. The way they play, the way they move, the way they move the ball, and the way they’re unselfish; there are definitely things you can learn, as a team, on our end.”
Call it a painful lesson for the Wolves, whose six-game home winning streak came to an end, with two games on the road ahead.
Andrew Wiggins scored 20 points as all five starters and one reserve scored in double figures. Okogie had his second consecutive strong offensive game, with 19 points on 6-for-9 shooting.
But the Wolves shot only 40.4 percent. On the defensive end, Minnesota let the Warriors do just about whatever they wanted to do, burning the Wolves with back-door plays while also hitting 19 of 42 three-point attempts.
“They’re a good team, a championship team, for a reason,” Wiggins said. “They have a lot of guys who can get going really quick. They go on a lot of runs.”
The Wolves, meanwhile, had difficult nights from Dario Saric (3-for-10) and Tyus Jones (3-for-14). The Wolves made just nine of 36 three-point attempts.
“We played hard, but we just had some defensive miscues,” Towns said. “They started hitting shots at a big point, and we couldn’t stop the bleeding. We weren’t able to match ’em in scoring.”
It doesn’t get any easier. A team that has lost eight in a row on the road now has games coming up at Charlotte and Memphis. After that, the season winds down with eight of nine games against teams currently in playoff position.
“I appreciate how hard these guys have played,” Saunders said. “When you’re going against the world champions, you have to be on your game, offensively and defensively. There are things we can take from tonight. Some positives, but there were also things we can learn from.”