OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — As the buzzer sounded at the end of the final home game of the regular season, players surrounded Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson for a group hug — then began jumping and dancing around him.
Most had never felt what winning 50 games is like.
Stephen Curry had 32 points and 15 assists, rallying the Warriors from 19 points down in the first half to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 130-120 on Monday night to touch off the celebration.
“Fifty is a special number,” Jackson said. “Some of them never hit 50, and I don’t want to be prophetic, but some of them, there’s a chance they won’t ever hit 50 again.”
After learning that center Andrew Bogut could miss the playoffs with a fractured right rib, the Warriors (50-31) withstood a strong start by Kevin Love to secure the sixth seed in the Western Conference playoffs. They finish the regular season Wednesday at Denver before beginning the postseason at the Los Angeles Clippers or Oklahoma City this weekend.
The Warriors last won 50 games when they finished the 1993-94 season with a 50-32 record.
“It’s a number most teams aspire for at the beginning of the season,” Curry said. “And for an organization that hasn’t been there in 20 years, it’s definitely a big accomplishment.”
The last win certainly didn’t come easy.
Love scored 22 of his 40 points in the first quarter to surpass Kevin Garnett’s single-season franchise scoring record. He also finished with 14 rebounds and nine assists for the Timberwolves (40-41), who will need to win at Utah on Wednesday to clinch the franchise’s first non-losing season since 2004-05.
“They’re a type of team, it doesn’t matter how much you’re up,” Love said. “You can be up 20, 30 points and they go on a big run with their shooters and how fast that they play. It’s just tough.”
David Lee played through an ailing right hamstring to finish with 25 points and nine rebounds, Draymond Green added 20 points and 12 boards, and Klay Thompson scored 20 for the Warriors. Golden State was playing its fourth game in five nights — and after learning of a big blow to its chances of advancing in the playoffs.
The team announced before the game that an X-ray on Bogut revealed a fractured right rib. The injury could keep Golden State’s starting center out for the start of the playoffs — and possibly all of the postseason.
The Warriors also overcame the absence of starting small forward Andre Iguodala, who had the night off to rest his sore right knee, and a nothing-too-lose Timberwolves team that has been surging to the finish. In April alone, Minnesota has won at Miami and at Memphis and also beaten San Antonio and Houston at home.
In the end, the Warriors cleaned up their mistakes and made all the big plays that the Timberwolves couldn’t. Minnesota committed 21 turnovers, while the Warriors had 15.
“You knew they were going to make a run,” Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman said.
After Love’s 3-pointer moved Minnesota within three, the Warriors leaned on Curry again. He banked in a left-handed floater and hit a step-back 3-pointer over Corey Brewer to highlight a 7-0 spurt to put the Warriors up 126-116 with 1:25 to play.
Curry walked to the bench during the timeout flexing his muscles as the white-shirt wearing sellout of 19,596 roared to their feet in the final home game of the season.
“I sat in my office and I’m thinking, ‘I know they’re going to ask me about Steph. What can I say that I haven’t said yet?'” Jackson said. “I might as well admit, I’m on empty. The guy is first-team All-NBA.”
Love and Curry controlled most of the game, especially in the first half.
Love made three straight 3s to start the game as Minnesota opened a 16-2 lead behind his could-not-miss stroke. He finished the first quarter with 22 points and eight rebounds to put the Timberwolves up 42-28.
After Minnesota went ahead 51-32 early in the second quarter, Curry brought the Warriors back.
Curry capped a 23-4 spurt with consecutive 3-pointers before finding a cutting Thompson for a layup to tie the score at 55. Minnesota moved ahead 64-62 at the half.
The teams traded scores for most of the third quarter. The Warriors built a 104-96 lead early in the fourth quarter and held off the Timberwolves in the closing minutes.
NOTES: The Warriors will likely rest most regulars at Denver on Wednesday, Jackson said. … The Warriors set the second-highest total attendance in franchise history for the season with 803,436 fans. The team sold out all 41 home games and has a streak of 79 consecutive sellouts.
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