Wednesday evening’s Golden State-Minnesota tilt was being marketed by Fox Sports North as a power forward showdown: the Wolves’ Kevin Love versus the Warriors’ David Lee. It seemed kind of silly on it’s face, given the Stephen Curry-Ricky Rubio match-up at the point, or even the Andrew Bogut-Nikola Pekovic battle in the paint.
Somewhat surprisingly, the Love-Lee battle was an offensive show, especially in the first half. While Lee took advantage of the Wolves swarming Golden State’s perimeter shooters (the correct choice, by the way), Love showed off his impressively polished all-around offensive game. From scoring in the post to providing Wolves’ cutter Corey Brewer and Kevin Martin with picture-perfect passes from the top of the key, Love truly did it all.
The Wolves’ starters jumped out to a small lead midway through the first quarter, allowing coach Rick Adelman to go to his bench a little earlier than normal. Unfortunately, the bench unit of J.J. Barea, Alexey Shved, Derrick Williams, Dante Cunningham, and Gorgui Dieng gave back the lead quickly, and handed the starters a deficit of six points when they began to reenter the game towards the end of the first half.
The home team finished the half fairly well, although the Warriors’ plan of shadowing Love in the pick-and-roll and overplaying the expected pass from Ricky Rubio worked as well as they could have hoped. Lee more than matched Love’s 10 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 assists at halftime with 16 points and 8 rebounds of his own on an ultra-efficient 7 of 9 shooting performance.
The Wolves struggled uncharacteristically on the offensive glass, only pulling down three boards on that end of the floor in the first half. This allowed Golden State to get a few run-outs and easy buckets, helping them maintain a 50-47 lead at the break.
The third quarter saw the Wolves tie the game up fairly quickly, followed by Golden State pushing the lead to 11 points before the Wolves went on an 8-0 run, pulling themselves to a 67-64 deficit with just over four minutes remaining in the frame.
From there, Golden State went on an 8-0 run of their own thanks to some awful turnovers by the Wolves. They opened up another 11 point lead before the Wolves got within 79-71 by the end of the third period.
Early in the third quarter, Rubio fell on Curry’s lower leg on a play near the sideline. Curry left the game for a few minutes, returned, and then went to the locker room at the end of the quarter. Here’s hoping the chronic ankle issues haven’t cropped up again, although it looked like it may have been his knee that they were working on. (Update: The Warriors are reporting it as a bone bruise on Curry’s foot.)
The Wolves stayed close early in the final frame, but things digressed quickly as Klay Thompson got hot. As overrated as Thompson still is (overall low efficiency, poor turnover and assist rates, spotty defense, etc.), he dropped 19 points on the Wolves in the first 7+ minutes of the fourth. As expected, Kevin Martin and J.J. Barea simply couldn’t slow down Thompson’s hot shooting.
The Warriors pushed the lead all the way to 99-81 with just under six minutes remaining in the game, and ultimately finished the game with a 106-93 advantage as the Wolves got their deep bench some run in the final couple of minutes.
– Love’s passing, especially early in the first quarter, was exquisite. He even threw a behind-the-back pass from the left wing on a baseline cut for an easy bucket for the Wolves. After a great start, Love had a rough second half and shot just 10 for 25 for the night, ending the game with 25 points, 16 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block.
– Rubio struggled again on the offensive end, shooting just 2 for 8 and finishing with 7 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds, and just 1 steal to go along with 4 turnovers.
– The Wolves bench was awful once again. Chase Budinger and Ronny Turiaf can’t return soon enough. Even with their return, the bench will lack scoring punch and shooting touch.
– The Warriors are a good team. They still will have some backup guard issues, and on nights when Thompson and Harrison Barnes are cold, they’ll struggle on offense. It’s tough to see them as a true contender, but they’re still a sure 4-7 seed in the Western Conference.
– The Wolves host the Dallas Mavericks at Target Center on Friday night at 7 p.m. CST.