OAKLAND, CALIF. – Hours after he learned he’ll play for Golden State superstar Stephen Curry’s team for one evening in February, young Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns still was figuring out how to beat Curry’s other team after Thursday’s 126-113 loss at Oracle Arena.
Captain for one of two teams in a new NBA All-Star Game format, Curry on Thursday afternoon drafted both Towns and Wolves teammate Jimmy Butler to play for him against LeBron James’ team that not only includes the player they call King but Curry’s superstar mate Kevin Durant as well.
On Thursday night, Curry, Durant and fellow All Star selectees Klay Thompson and Draymond Green went out and thumped the Wolves in three-pointers made, fast-break points scored and ultimately where it only really matters, on the scoreboard.
Afterward, Towns’ mind was miles away from playing with Curry and focused on how to compete against him.
“I’m not thinking about that,” Towns said. “That’s just one day. We’ve got a lot of games to focus on. That’s the least of my worries right now. We’ve got to think about the season. We’ve got find ways to win. We’ve got to find ways to beat Steph’s real team. We’ve got to learn and be better next time.”
The Wolves played the reigning NBA champs twice in China during preseason play and again once for keeps in early November. If Thursday’s loss was a checkpoint on the way to the playoffs, the Wolves didn’t fare much better than the 24-point loss they suffered there more than two months ago.
This time, they played without Butler, who missed his fourth consecutive game because of a sore right knee.
“It was going to be a challenge for us coming in,” Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said in some very succinct post-game comments, “but I thought we had our chances.”
The Wolves beat Toronto and the Los Angeles Clippers without Butler, but wilted in Wednesday’s third quarter during a loss at Portland. On Thursday, they couldn’t nearly keep pace with a championship team, even though veteran guard Jamal Crawford tried to shoot the Wolves way back into the game with 21 points off the bench in his second game back from a big-toe injury.
The Warriors outscored the Wolves 63-18 on threes, 48-15 on fast-break points and recorded 37 assists on 48 made baskets playing their beautiful brand of basketball that has won two of the last three NBA titles.
Curry, Durant and Thompson made 16 of their first 21 three-point attempts combined and Thompson made his first six and didn’t miss a single one until nine minutes remained in the game. Those three combined to score 88 of the Warriors’ 126 points.
When asked if the Warriors’ 56.8 percent shooting from three-point range was too many defensive lapses by the visitors or a home team that can’t miss, Towns said, “I think it was both. I think the defensive lapses led to them feeling like they got hot. They had a lot of confidence shooting the ball the rest of the night. We just have to play better defense.”
The Warriors led by 11 points late in the first quarter, by 14 early in the second quarter and by 12 at halftime. The Wolves drew within five points after they started the second half by scoring 10 of its first 13 points.
But every time they came near – within six points once later, by seven points seven times more – the Warriors almost always responded with a three-pointer, or three. At one point, Thompson answered with four threes within 2 ½ minutes.
Once near, the Wolves quickly trailed again by double digits repeatedly.
“It’s deflating,” Crawford said. “You can be in the game three to five points and then they hit three threes and it goes from five to 14 that fast, and it really is that fast. So you have to whether that storm and be mentally tough.”
While the Wolves tried to stay within sight, Durant concluded a busy day with a 28-point, 11-assist, 10-rebound triple-double, his second this season.
Earlier in the day, he was fined $15,000 by the NBA for criticizing the officiating in Tuesday’s victory over New York and become the first player drafted – by James – in the new All-Star Game format. Curry responded by drafting his two other teammates Thompson and Green for his own team.
“Life could be much worse,” said Durant, who publicly apologized Wednesday for his words and actions the night before. “It was definitely a fun day. I was looking forward to seeing who was going to be on the All-Star teams and looking forward to seeing what my fine was going to be.”
Meanwhile, the Warriors successfully game-planned to shut down Wolves forward Andrew Wiggins.
Wiggins went 4-for-18 from the field and scored but 10 points after he averaged 31 points in the last three games. All those three were played with Butler out injured. Wiggins also had three assists Thursday while trying to make plays when the Golden State defense collapsed on him.
“They just did a good job,” Towns said. “They’re a championship team for a reason. That game plan was set up for Andrew. That’s the ultimate sign of respect. When they think that highly of you, they were just hounding him all night, he was doing great job getting teammates open because of him had a chance, being team player all night.”
“We did some good things, but the bad just outweighed the good,” Crawford said. “If we can stay consistent no matter what, just even keel. I think especially missing our best player, when he comes back we’ll be better for it.”