Maybe the Minnesota Timberwolves should hold more of those brutally honest team meetings.
A day after a frank discussion in which players and coaches vented about their frustrating season, the Wolves showed some rare determination and ended a seven-game skid with a 126-123 victory over the struggling Golden State Warriors on Sunday.
Kevin Love led Minnesota as usual, this time with 37 points and 23 rebounds to extend his NBA-leading double-double streak to 46 games. But it was two defensive stops by rookie Wes Johnson that ultimately sealed the victory.
With a chance for Golden State to win in the final seconds, Monta Ellis drove the lane as the nervous Target Center crowd—which has witnessed many blown fourth-quarter leads this season—held its breath. But Johnson swatted Ellis’ shot away, and Michael Beasley was fouled after picking up the loose ball with just more than 3 seconds to play.
Anthony Tolliver hit two free throws on the ensuing possession, and Johnson helped force a Warriors turnover on the final inbounds play.
“This was almost a must-win for us,” Love said. “We felt like we haven’t been playing well the past five or six games, and we had to come out and win this one. So we’re just happy we did.”
Love had his fourth 30-point, 20-rebound game of the season as the Timberwolves overcame a 14-point deficit. The All-Star forward also went 18 for 23 from the free throw line to tie Minnesota’s franchise records for attempts and makes.
Love’s double-double streak, however, has been a painful consolation as the Wolves have failed to show much improvement from last year’s woeful campaign. Everything finally came to a head on Saturday as the players and coaches met to clear the air in the hopes of sparking something.
“I feel like everybody took it the right way. Nobody took it hard,” Beasley said. “There’s no hard feelings, you know? It’s kind of what we needed. I feel like everybody took it to heart and didn’t want to be all talk. We came to play.”
So did the Warriors, save for a miserable third quarter that proved too difficult to overcome as Golden State lost its third straight since the All-Star break. Stephen Curry led the way with 33 points while Dorell Wright added 26.
After scoring 73 points in the first half, the Warriors managed only 16 in the third quarter on a terrible 5-for-27 performance from the floor.
“Just didn’t play well in the third quarter whatsoever,” David Lee said. “Couldn’t buy a bucket on offense. Couldn’t stop anybody on defense. Made a good comeback, we didn’t give up, but that’s beside the point.”
The Warriors had won three straight heading into the All-Star break as they tried to make a run at the final playoff spot in the West. After consecutive double-digit losses to Boston and Atlanta, a trip to Minneapolis might have seemed just the antidote for Golden State.
Instead, it proved to be a rough start to the road trip.
“It’s a seven-game road trip that’s going to more or less make or break the rest of our season and this is not the way to start,” Lee said.