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3 takeaways from Warriors’ sharp-shooting win over Minnesota

© Kelley L Cox | 2022 Jan 27

Stephen Curry boogied, Klay Thompson put together his second-straight complete game, Jordan Poole heat-checked and first-time All-Star Andrew Wiggins camped on the perimeter for catch-and-shoot 3s.

Spurned by a halftime adjustment designed to slow down Karl-Anthony Towns, the Warriors blitzed Minnesota for a 38-20 third quarter. Golden State shot a season-best 58.3% (21-for-36) from deep, as Curry, Thompson and Wiggins each sunk at least five triples.

The Warriors (36-13) outlasted the scrappy Timberwolves, 124-115 behind Curry’s 29 points. Towns recorded 31 points and 12 boards, but just eight of those points came in the second half.

Here are three takeaways from GSW’s fourth consecutive win. 

KAT in the cradle 

In the first half, Karl-Anthony Towns played like he was really upset that Andrew Wiggins took his spot in the Western Conference All-Star starting lineup. 

By all accounts, the two are good friends. So this likely wasn’t his real mindset. No matter, Towns went out and dropped 23 points in the first half. He dominated the Warriors inside, on the glass and just about everywhere else. He was the main factor in Kevon Looney picking up four personal fouls entering halftime. 

But then Golden State started throwing double-teams at him in the post. It seems like an obvious adjustment, but the Warriors were still risking other Timberwolves getting hot from 3 and blowing the game open. 

GSW’s gamble paid off. Towns saw two, or even three bodies when he got near the rim. Elsewhere on the court, they let Looney go one-on-one. Once, Towns caught an entry past at the elbow, faced up Looney, and shot a 20-foot 2-pointer that fell short. It was the exact shot the Warriors’ scheme allowed, and the result was why. 

The Warriors wanted to let anyone else beat them. 

In a third quarter in which they won 38 to 20, the Warriors limited Towns to five points. They only let him shoot four shots. 

Then, strangely, the same Timberwolves Golden State was okay with beating them started to actually do it. Towns sat on the bench as his teammates opened the fourth quarter on a 10-0 run. 

But as Towns fizzled, so did Minnesota. He finished with eight second-half points on 3-for-7 shooting — a far cry from his brilliant start.

The re-integration of Klay 

After Klay Thompson’s six-assist performance on Tuesday that included three behind-the-back dishes, Jonathan Kuminga said when he used to watch highlights of Thompson, he never saw him pass like that. 

Like Kuminga, many of the Warriors had never played with Thompson before he returned from his 941-day layoff. Jordan Poole, Andrew Wiggins, Nemanja Bjelica and Otto Porter Jr. had never shared the court with him before a few weeks ago. 

So there’s naturally a learning curve. No matter how easy Thompson can be to play with, everyone’s still learning. 

On Thursday, it seemed like they’re settling in, bit-by-bit. 

At one point, Poole and Thompson ran a side pick-and-roll, with Thompson as the screener. Thompson dove to the rim, Poole found him with a pocket pass, and the five-time All-Star finished with his left. It was an action the Warriors hadn’t tried prior, and looked like it could be a weapon going forward. 

The biggest sign of a growing comfortability with playing with Thompson comes when there’s no set plays. It comes in controlled chaos, when a play breaks down. 

After Curry stole a pass near the 3-point line, the Warriors scrambled to fill spots. It was a broken play. Curry beat his man off the dribble and found Thompson in the corner. Thompson kept it moving to Bjelica on the wing and set a pin-down screen for Curry, who was relocating. Bjelica passed to Curry, who had a shot but instead wrapped a bounce pass to Thompson for a layup. 

Four passes, no dribbles. During a freestyle play. 

Curry and Thompson have had that kind of telepathic rapport for years. But bringing others, like Poole and Bjelica, into the fold is key. They’re still working out the kinks — Curry and Thompson cut into the same space on one play in the fourth quarter — but the incremental improvements are encouraging.  

A super-charged lineup

It was for less than two minutes, and the Warriors won by just three points in that span, but Steve Kerr tried quite the spicy lineup combination early in the first quarter. 

With his first round of substitutions, Kerr rolled out a lineup with his three best athletes, a dynamic slasher and an offensive supernova. 

The five: Steph Curry, Jordan Poole, Andrew Wiggins, Gary Payton II and Jonathan Kuminga. That’s right, the rookie at the five. 

Kuminga and Karl-Anthony Towns defended each other. The Warriors tried to run pick-and-rolls to get Towns on a switch to start each possession. GSW wanted to space the Timberwolves out on offense, run a swarming, double-teaming scheme on defense and run in transition. 

The lineup experimenting might not stop until May; Steve Kerr has a ton of five-man configurations to tinker with. But that archetype — GSW’s three best athletes plus two scorers — is a fun one to watch. 


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