After Andrew Wiggins made two free throws to give the Wolves the lead, Stephen Curry had a chance to put the Warriors ahead in the final seconds, but the ball rimmed out and the Warriors fell to 2-4 since Durant left in the first quarter against the Wizards on Feb. 28.
Here are a few takeaways from the game:
Curry’s slump continues
Curry did all he could to bring the Warriors back in the fourth quarter, but it was too late. The reigning two-time MVP continued his struggles sans Durant, shooting 10 for 27 overall, including 1 for 8 on 3-pointers on Friday. In the Warriors’ six games since Durant’s injury, Curry is shooting 56 for 134 (42 percent) from the field, including 18 for 65 (28 percent) from beyond the 3-point line. That, ladies and gentlemen, is what we call a slump.
To be fair, this sample size is a bit too small to say that it’s entirely because of Durant’s absence. In fact, in Curry’s last full game with Durant, he had one of his worst shooting games of the season -- 7 for 23 from the field and 0 for 11 on 3s. So this could be just a good old-fashioned slump that Curry will shoot his way out of. Either way, Curry and the Warriors need him to figure it out quickly.
It wasn’t all bad for Steph, however. He passed his father, Dell Curry, on the all-time scoring list.
Tough road for the No. 1 seed
The Warriors are fighting for every victory to keep the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, and their schedule isn’t doing them any favors. Golden State is now off to San Antonio for the toughest of back-to-backs on Saturday -- a game that got slightly more hopeful for the Warriors when the Spurs announced that Kawhi Leonard had entered the concussion protocol and wouldn’t play, then suddenly started to look like a guaranteed “L” when the Warriors announced minutes after the loss in Minnesota that Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green wouldn’t be playing either. So much for what was supposed to be one of the best games of the season.
After Saturday’s game, the Warriors will return home for games that would usually be considered gimmes, but now could be tough tests: Philadelphia, Orlando and Milwaukee. If those games are close -- even if the Warriors win -- it could take a serious toll on the players for a gauntlet of good-to-great teams.
The Warriors have a stretch in which they play Memphis, Houston, San Antonio, Houston (again) and Washington. For a team that has been struggling as badly as the Warriors, that could easily be a 2-3 or even 1-4 stretch that would help the Spurs close the gap on them in the race for the No. 1 seed.
Klay getting his groove back?
One positive for the Warriors on Friday was that Klay Thompson had another good game. He scored 30 points on 12-of-22 shooting and made three of his six 3-point attempts, making it the second successive game in which he has scored 25 or more. While Curry seems mired in shooting oblivion, this could be a sign Thompson is coming out of his funk and is ready to go for a 37-point quarter or 60-point game in the near future.
Rim protection, anyone?
Durant’s defense was also deeply missed Friday, namely because the Wolves can’t shoot. Minnesota scored 54 points in the paint, and got 21 more from the free-throw line. In the first half, the Warriors had no answer for Karl-Anthony Towns -- he’s just too big for Draymond Green and too mobile for Zaza Pachulia. Towns did virtually nothing in the second half and still finished with 23 points and nine rebounds.
In the second half, the Warriors clearly keyed in on Towns, but that gave Andrew Wiggins, who scored 20 of his 24 points in the second half, plenty of open lanes to the basket. Pretty much the only way the Wolves could get offense in the final minutes was by Wiggins driving through the lane and either scoring or getting fouled -- something that would have been much more difficult had Durant been in the paint waiting for him.
This poses an interesting matchup if the Wolves can get the No. 8 seed and the Warriors hang on to No. 1. Even if Durant comes back for that series, he likely won’t be at full strength and might even be on a minutes limit, so Towns and Wiggins could create some serious problems and turn the first round into a much tougher -- and possibly longer -- series than the Warriors imagined.