SAN FRANCISCO – With five players combining for 20 All-Star games unavailable, the Warriors and Minnesota Timberwolves gathered Sunday at Chase Center to determine which team would go where only one could.
That is, above. 500.
The Warriors managed the feat, summoning enough grit to overcome an atrocious start and wiping out a 10-point deficit over the final eight minutes and hanging on for a 109-104 victory before a delirious sellout (18,064) crowd.
The win put Golden State at 31-30, above .500 for the 11th time this season and keeps alive its hopes of making a late push toward a coveted Western Conference top-six playoff seed.
Klay Thompson handled most of the heavy lifting on offense, pouring in a game-high 32 points for a roster without Stephen Curry (nine All-Star Game appearances), Draymond Green (four) and Andrew Wiggins (one).
The Timberwolves were without big men Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert, each of whom has three appearances. Naz Reid, third on their big man list, stepped in to slice Golden State’s defense for 30 points.
Here are three observations from Golden State’s second consecutive win:
Determination makes an appearance
Golden State’s offense has been inconsistent, and that’s bound to happen over the course of a season.
Its defense has been, more often than not, missing in action. That has been an ongoing, much-discussed challenge.
But the intensity, that has been the biggest difference between this team and the one that fought its way to a championship last spring.
On this night, it showed up. It was late in arriving, which is why the Warriors spent all but the final seconds of the first half and most of the second half trailing.
But the level of pluck was at max in the fourth quarter. The execution was not always as drawn up – downright ghastly in the final minute – but there was not questioning the desire to chase victory.
Donte DiVincenzo alone brought enough energy to heat half of San Francisco, scoring 10 of his 21 points and playing junkyard-dog defense.
This is how the Warriors must compete if they are to get where they want to go.
The struggles of Jordan Poole
With Curry out of action, Poole’s offense is essential to a smooth Golden State offense. Recent developments have been discouraging, particularly regarding efficiency and judgment.
Poole finished with 15 points on 5-of-20 shooting from the field, including 1-of-8 from beyond the arc. His four assists were negated by four turnovers.
But it’s more than sheer numbers. Poole can’t seem to shake his tendency to launch ill-advised 30-footers early in the shot clock or even when the Warriors seem to be finding a measure of rhythm on offense. That’s a judgment thing, and that’s the No. 1 priority of anyone filling the role of point guard.
Over his last three games, Poole’s assist-turnover ratio is less than ideal (16 assists, nine turnovers) and his average of 15.3 points have come on 13-of-46 shooting, including 5-of-23 from distance.
If those numbers don’t improve, and quickly, there might not be much of an offense for Curry to save over the final weeks.
Kuminga slightly better this time around
With Green out of the lineup for the second consecutive game, the Warriors again replaced him in the starting lineup with Jonathan Kuminga.
The results this time were marginally better, as Kuminga delivered 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the field, including 1-of-1 from deep, along with five rebounds.
It was an improvement over Friday, when Kuminga submitted seven points, four rebounds, four assists and a team-high four turnovers in 24 minutes in a win over the Rockets.
The tradeoff from Draymond to Kuminga costs the Warriors defensive communication/awareness/activity, rebounding and playmaking. Though they gain spasms of athleticism, it’s a lot to overcome if the scoring difference is negligible.
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If Green is forced to the sideline for a few more games, the Warriors are going to need more from their most recent high lottery pick.