OAKLAND, CALIF. – November isn’t April and the Timberwolves’ 115-102 loss Saturday night at Golden State wasn’t anything like the last time they visited Oracle Arena.
The last time was way back in last season’s final days, when the Warriors aimed themselves in historic pursuit of the NBA’s best regular-season record and the Wolves played free, with nothing to lose.
They walked away winners 124-117 in overtime after Shabazz Muhammad scored a career-high 35 points that night, but on Saturday they trailed by 15 points in the fourth quarter before they pulled within as few as eight points with three minutes left.
They never got any closer than that, not against a Warriors team that now has superstar Kevin Durant beside Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
“It’s crazy,” Wolves guard Zach LaVine said after he delivered a 31-point performance that wasn’t nearly enough. “It’s an All-Star team.”
The Wolves took their first look at an opponent that now has four stars -- one of them, Draymond Green, was injured Saturday – and now has won 11 consecutive games on its way to an 15-2 overall.
Curry scored 34 points, including the three-point dagger with 2:27 left that regained a 13-point lead. Thompson had 23.
And then there was the new guy with this stat line -- 28 points, 10 rebounds, six blocked shots and five assists – while playing both some power forward and center.
“He’s guarding some bigger guys for us and he’s capable of doing it,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.
On Saturday, Durant covered everyone from big man Karl-Anthony Towns to LaVine.
“I’ve coached against them a bunch of times, but not with Durant,” Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said. “You add him to the mix here and just the way they play, just a lot of good veterans, those guys are really good pros. It’s a deep team and they all play for each other. It makes it hard to guard.”
As they had to varying degrees in the first two games of a three-game trip that ended Saturday, the Wolves couldn’t close out the first half. Leading 36-30 early in the second quarter, they surrendered the quarter’s final seven points and in 69 seconds, a one-point Golden State lead quickly became a 56-48 halftime deficit.
“We didn’t end it the right way,” LaVine said, “but we still played a really solid first half.”
They also were outscored in a third quarter yet again. This time, it was 34-25 and 17 of Curry's points came in that quarter.
“When you play a team like that, you cannot make mistakes,” Wolves big man Gorgui Dieng said. “They’re a scary team.”
The Wolves made their mistakes: They were outrebounded 45-33 and allowed the Warriors four of their 12 offensive rebounds in the second quarter’s final minute.
“The way we closed the second quarter hurt us,” Thibodeau said. “Our rebounding -- which has been one of our strengths -- wasn’t good.”
The Warriors now have had double-digit winning streaks for four consecutive seasons. That’s only the ninth time in NBA history that has been done.
The Wolves never pulled closer than those eight points in a final quarter finished off for the second consecutive night with Tyus Jones playing point guard rather than Ricky Rubio or rookie Kris Dunn.
Called upon for the first time all night late in the third quarter, he again played the entire fourth quarter, some of it with Dunn. He did so one night after providing a winning leading-man performance Friday at Phoenix.
“We’re looking for a spark,” Thibodeau said. “I thought Ricky gave us a good start and I thought Kris was solid.”
None of it could keep the Warriors undefeated since a Nov. 4 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, on a night when Andrew Wiggins followed LaVine’s in-your-face dunk over Phoenix 7-footer Alex Len on Friday by doing the same over big JaVale McGee in the third quarter in a pair of moments made for the Internet.
“That was nasty,” LaVine said of his teammate’s dunk. “I don’t know if it topped mine, but it was nasty.”
Neither dunk probably much impressed Thibodeau, who said before Saturday’s game that he hopes his team can focus on the “things that go into winning and get away from the sideshows.”
LaVine led the Wolves with those 31 points in the same arena where he first set his career scoring high of 37 points, late in his rookie season two years ago.
“Man, you’ve just got to go up against them,” LaVine said. “You’ve got to be confident – that’s what we are – and play the best you can against them because they’re going to make their shots and we’re going to make ours.”
This time, of course, the Warriors made more.