MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — As Minnesota’s measuring-stick matchup with Golden State hung in the balance, the Timberwolves turned the game over to Karl-Anthony Towns.
Their flourishing young center took over in the final stretch.
Towns helped Minnesota stop a season-high three-game losing streak with 31 points and 16 rebounds, and the Timberwolves powered their way past Golden State down the stretch for a 109-103 victory on Sunday to hand the Warriors their second straight defeat without star Stephen Curry.
“Obviously it’s humbling, just that they respect the work I put into my craft,” said Towns, who had 14 points in the fourth quarter. “I’m blessed with the opportunity to catch the ball with that kind of situation and be able to capitalize.”
Kevin Durant had 39 points and 12 rebounds for the Warriors, who left Curry at home from this road trip to rest an injured ankle and lost 125-108 to Portland on Friday, but he made just 11 of 32 field goal tries.
“I’m very confident in where we’re heading,” said coach Steve Kerr, whose team fell two losses behind Western Conference leader Houston. “But we’re in the middle of a tough stretch.”
Andrew Wiggins added 23 points for the Timberwolves, who lost twice on the road to the defending champion Warriors earlier this season by a combined 37 points. Curry had a collective plus-36 rating over those two games.
With their spot in the ultracompetitive Western Conference standings slipping while All-Star Jimmy Butler recuperates from right knee surgery, the Wolves needed this win in the worst way in the thick of a daunting stretch of their schedule. They’re tied for fifth place but only 1½ games above the cut for the playoffs.
Towns made his All-Star presence felt when it mattered most, swishing a 3-pointer with 5:54 left to give the Wolves a 99-92 edge for their largest lead since early in the second quarter. He knocked down a floater from the lane with 2:18 to go. He hit a fadeaway with 1:08 remaining. Then he dropped in a layup follow of his own miss with 37.5 seconds left to put the game away. He held out his long arms and cupped his hands to encourage the crowd as the last seconds ticked off the clock.
This was the 13th sellout of the season for the Wolves, their most since 2003-04 when they last made the playoffs.
“It was like a sixth player in the game. It was fun,” said Nemanja Bjelica, who had 10 points and seven rebounds to give the whole Wolves starting lineup double-digit scoring. Taj Gibson (11 points, 13 rebounds) and Jeff Teague (10 points, 10 assists) joined Towns with double-doubles, and most importantly the energy on defense was as high as it’s been since All-Star Jimmy Butler went down with a knee injury six games ago.
“With Jimmy out, we have to understand how important that is,” coach Tom Thibodeau said.
Klay Thompson had 21 points for the Warriors, who led by as much as 57-45 in the third quarter, but he went 3 for 12 from 3-point range. Draymond Green added 10 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, but he had trouble defending Towns down low. Zaza Pachulia pitched in 16 points and 11 rebounds, but without their catalyst, Curry, the Warriors weren’t the same.
Still, Kerr was satisfied with his short-handed team.
“As long as the effort is there, I’m fine with some bad shots,” Kerr said. “More than anything, we just looked a little tired.”
Coming off the bench while Javale McGee starts at center, Pachulia made his first seven shots to give the Warriors a big boost when fellow reserves Andre Iguodala (wrist sprain), Jordan Bell (ankle sprain) and David West (arm cyst) were held out again. Pachulia had three assists, two blocked shots and a steal in 25 minutes.
“He keeps up his conditioning. He stays ready all the time. He stays positive,” Kerr said. “I’m thrilled with Zaza.”
Thompson sprained his right thumb during the game, the Warriors said, and backup Nick Young bruised his left hip. This will be another difficult week for the Warriors to grind through all these minor but not insignificant injuries.
“It’s tough when you’re missing that many key guys,” Green said. “But I think these guys will be back in time for us to find the rhythm that we need.”
NO BLOOM FOR ROSE
The Wolves built their biggest lead of the game, 28-17, late in the first quarter until Thibodeau initiated Derrick Rose’s debut in an extra-small lineup next to Tyus Jones and Jamal Crawford. Over the 6:48 stretch Rose was in the game at shooting guard, the Wolves were outscored 27-10.
After losing the ball in the lane that led to a fast break for Warriors, Rose lost track of Shaun Livingston and gave up an uncontested dunk on the other end before Thibodeau called a timeout with the Wolves trailing 44-38.
This was Rose’s first on-court action since Feb. 7 for Cleveland, against Minnesota. He finished 1 for 5 from the floor for two points with two assists, one rebound and two turnovers.
“My wind was good,” Rose said, “but as far as rust, yeah, losing the ball, just not there yet.”
Warriors: West was scheduled for examination by a dermatologist on Sunday, Kerr said, before an assessment about his return could be made. … Thompson was under his scoring average (19.7 points per game entering the afternoon) in eight of the previous 10 contests.
Timberwolves: Towns had his NBA-best 57th double-double of the season. … Gibson reached double-digits in scoring for the 18th time in the last 21 games.
Warriors: Return home to play the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.
Timberwolves: Hit the road to take on the Washington Wizards on Tuesday.
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