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3 takeaways from Warriors’ road trip-ending loss to Minnesota

© Bruce Kluckhohn | 2022 Jan 16

Without Stephen Curry (hand) and Draymond Green (lower back, calf) unavailable, the Warriors fizzled out in Minnesota after three competitive quarters.  

Curry’s hand injury isn’t considered major. Golden State should have the depth to weather a couple weeks without Green. But their shorthanded roster lacked a knockout punch as Minnesota went on a 38-7 run from the end of the third quarter into the fourth. 

Golden State finished their four-game road trip with a 119-99 loss — their third away from home. 

Here are three takeaways from Golden State’s fifth loss in its last seven contests.  

A Towns takeover 

Golden State’s main objective Sunday was slowing down Minnesota star center Karl-Anthony Towns. A tall task magically beanstocked by the absence of Green. 

Kevon Looney battled. Early on, he held his ground on a post-up and forced a baby hook to fall short. He also moved his feet well laterally, forcing Towns to dribble out of bounds on a face-up by beating him to the spot. 

But Looney, despite frustrating Towns for a moment, is no match for the two-time All-Star who converted four and-1s. 

Minnesota’s offense consisted of Towns either operating inside, crashing the glass or attacking mismatches from the perimeter. Timberwolves wings jacked 3s around him in transition and off drive-and-kicks. 

The formula worked magnificently. Towns (26 points and 11 rebounds in 29 minutes) had his way in every area of the court. Four of his 11 boards came on the offensive glass. Much of Minnesota’s advantage in the paint — 54 to 32 in total — was initiated in some form by Towns. 

Towns also kept his teammates involved enough so they were equipped to lead a major 14-3 surge to start the fourth quarter while he rested. It was a clinic, and the Timberwolves carried his momentum. 

Another strong Kuminga game

With smaller defenders on him, Kuminga often set up on the block and tried to bully his way to the hoop. His post moves, as of now, are more brawns than finesse, but he still finished at the rim once and drew a foul. Even some of his wilder takes to the rim at least drew contact. 

But he also made a rookie mistake. On a face-up in the mid-post, he tried to rip the ball through high over his head to get into triple threat position. But he led with his elbows, connecting with Jaylen Nowell’s chin and committing a flagrant foul. 

He didn’t let the mistake change his aggression, though. On consecutive possessions in the second quarter, Kuminga got downhill and finished at the rim. Then Kuminga flushed home a dunk off a deftly timed cut, taking a nice drop-off pass from Jordan Poole. His combination of size and explosion looks menacing at times. 

One game after dropping 25 points in 25 minutes, Kuminga recorded 19 points and seven rebounds against the Timberwolves (though he was a team-worst -30). His ferocity going to the rim gets clearer and more convictive with every drive. 

Without Draymond Green for at least two more weeks, Kuminga will have a golden opportunity to earn minutes. The forward rotation, when GSW is fully healthy, doesn’t have enough room for the rookie as currently constituted. But if Kuminga can give the Warriors consistency, energy, aggression and a semi-reliable 3-point shot as a swingman in Green’s absence, Steve Kerr will have no chance but to play him. 

The defense is there. The effort is, too. Even his playmaking instincts appear ahead of schedule for a teenager. Whatever Kuminga can provide offensively — and when given the opportunity, it’s been quite a bit — will determine his role for this team. 

No revenge game for Wiggins 

In the Warriors’ last meeting with the Timberwolves, which traded Andrew Wiggins and the draft pick that became Jonathan Kuminga to GSW for D’Angelo Russell, Wiggins poured 35 points on his former team. 

He was electric, dunking on his friend Karl-Anthony Towns. Wiggins was so aggressive, so effective that night, Minnesota’s coach theorized he has a “personal vendetta” against the Timberwolves franchise. Wiggins insisted it wasn’t a revenge game. 

Sunday, with the keys to the offense turned to him and Jordan Poole, Wiggins started slow. Wiggins had two points at halftime on just three shots. He wasn’t as involved in the halfcourt as one might have expected. 

Then in the third, Wiggins started bringing the ball up. Maybe feeling the ball more helped him find a rhythm. He drilled a wide open 3 on the break. Then he sunk a corner 3 off a beautiful Klay Thompson kick. He followed that up with a tough finish on the break. 

With some scoring mojo, Wiggins stuffed Anthony Edwards at the rim. He was the main cog in a 21-6 Warriors third-quarter run. He later denied a Jaden McDaniels dunk attempt from the weak side. 

But the shorthanded Warriors needed more out of Wiggins. As Jordan Poole dropped 20 points, Kuminga impressed, Otto Porter Jr. provided strong minutes and Klay Thompson made the most out of his limited playing time, Wiggins only posted 12 points on 4-for-11 shooting.

 

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