Andrew Wiggins comes up big to lift Wolves over Warriors, 103-102

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Stephen Curry got free for a clean look, and a record crowd at Target Center held its collective breath when he let it fly. Like it has so often during a remarkable slump for the game’s best shooter, the ball clanked off the rim again.

Like they have so often during a late-season surge toward playoff contention, the Minnesota Timberwolves walked off the court winners again.

Andrew Wiggins scored 20 of his 24 points in the second half and hit the go-ahead free throws with 12.8 seconds left to lift the Timberwolves to a 103-102 victory over the scuffling Golden State Warriors on Friday night.

Ricky Rubio had 17 points and 13 assists, and Karl-Anthony Towns scored 23 points to give the Timberwolves their sixth win in eight games as they try to chase down the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoff race. They trail Denver by 2 1/2 games.

“We are learning and getting experience,” Rubio said. “These games are meaning a lot. We are going after it.”

Klay Thompson scored 30 points for Golden State, but Curry’s struggles continued in the Warriors’ second straight loss and fourth in six games without injured star Kevin Durant. Curry scored 26 points, but was just 10 for 27 from the field and 1 for 8 from 3-point range. And he missed an 18-footer in the closing seconds that would have won the game.

Wiggins missed a pair of free throws with 29 seconds left that would have given the Wolves a three-point lead. After Curry hit a floater for a 102-101 Golden State lead, Wiggins responded by calmly knocking down two in a row.

“I missed two but I made the two most important ones of the night,” Wiggins said.

Before a two-game skid against Washington and Chicago last week, the Warriors had gone a league-record 146 straight regular-season games without consecutive losses. Their next streak lasted just two.

In his last 13 games, Curry was shooting 29.7 percent from 3-point range and he missed his first four from long range on Friday night. Three of them were wide open, catch-and-shoot looks that didn’t go down and the other was one of his patented crossover-stepbacks that glanced off the rim.

His first 3 of the night splashed through with 7:59 to go in the third quarter, but missed his next two to keep the floodgates closed. The Warriors were down 14 to start the fourth, but Curry scored nine points in the final four minutes before missing his last shot.

“You take that shot that Steph got any day of the week,” Thompson said. “It went in and out.”

TIP-INS

Warriors: Curry needed 14 points to surpass his father, Dell, in career scoring. Dell Curry scored 12,670 points in his career. … G Shaun Livingston was given the night off to rest. … The Warriors gave up 34 points in the first quarter, the fourth time in the last seven games they’ve allowed at least 30 in the opening frame.

Timberwolves: G Brandon Rush returned to the starting lineup after sitting out on Wednesday because of an illness. … The attendance of 20,412 set a Target Center record. … Towns had just four points on 2-for-8 shooting in the second half.

WEARY WARRIORS

The Warriors are at the tail end of a stretch of eight games in eight different cities in 13 days. Coach Steve Kerr said after the game he planned to rest Curry, Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala against the Spurs on Saturday night.

FALSE START

The teams had to be called back onto the court after the players had reached the locker room for the halftime break after a timing problem. The players thought the half had ended on a goaltending violation by Shabazz Muhammad, but replays showed there was still 0.6 seconds left on the clock. Referee Kenny Mauer called everyone back to finish the half, so the players trudged back on to the court to inbound the ball.

Rubio fired up a three-quarter court heave and then everyone went back to the locker room again.

 

Steve Kerr “uncertain” if he will coach in NBA Finals

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The Warriors have gone 12-0 through the playoffs, the first team to sweep the first three rounds of the playoffs since the NBA went to a best-of-7 in all three rounds (a couple Lakers teams did it when the first round was best-of-5).

That doesn’t mean they haven’t missed Steve Kerr as coach, but they haven’t needed him. Yet. Mike Brown has done the job quite well.

Will Kerr be back for the NBA Finals? He told Marc Spears of ESPN he doesn’t know.

Kerr had back surgeries two summers ago, and that caused him to miss the start of the 2015-16 season (Luke Walton ran the show). Kerr coached through pain caused by a slow leak of spinal fluid until nausea and pain became too much at the start of this postseason. Kerr has had a new procedure — one that is apparently promising, one that we hope works to end the leak — but he’s understandably cautious about jumping back in.

That said, the next round, against the Cavaliers (barring the most improbable comeback in NBA history), is when the Warriors will need Kerr’s creative mind and solutions to the challenges Cleveland presents.

He’s also got more than a week to decide since the Finals don’t start until June 1.

Manu Ginobili receives standing ovation upon exiting what may be his final game

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Manu Ginobili is a four-time NBA champion, a two-time All-NBA player,  two-time All-Star, and a Sixth Man of the Year.

He’s also the most popular Spur of his generation — walk around San Antonio, even at the peak of the Spurs runs, and you saw more Ginobili jerseys than Duncan or Parker or Robinson or anyone else. Ginobili is beloved.

When he was taken out near the end of Game 4, maybe his final game as a Spur, the fans erupted into a standing ovation (joined by Stephen Curry, who stepped away from the free throw line to let the moment happen).

Ginobili hinted during the season this would be his last, but has said repeatedly during the playoffs he didn’t know what he would do during the season. He looked like he had game left in the tank during the Western Conference Finals (he had 15 points in Game 4 and was one of the Spurs best players in the series). The question is, at age 40 next season, will he want to go through all the work it takes to get physically ready for the next season.

Warriors take control early, hold off Spurs to sweep series, advance to NBA Finals

Associated Press
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This series was decided early in the second half of Game 1, when Kawhi Leonard’s ankle rolled. He never got back on the court in the next three games, the Spurs were +21 when he was on in that first game and -85 the rest of the way. Without his defense on one end and shot creation on the other the Spurs could not match up.

The Spurs didn’t play like it was over Monday night — while the Warriors would hit threes and go on runs, the Spurs would answer back never let them completely pull away. They got buckets from Kyle Anderson (20 points off the bench) and 15 from Manu Ginobili in what may have been his final NBA game (he got the start, and the crowd erupted when he was taken out near the end).

It wasn’t enough. The Golden State Warriors were the better team — maybe even if Leonard had played — and they were in control of this game the entire way, getting 36 points from Stephen Curry and 29 from Kevin Durant.

The Warriors went on to win 125-110 and sweep the Spurs 4-0. Golden State swept through the West undefeated at 12-0, and they will take on the winner of the East (we all know it will be Cleveland). The Finals don’t begin until June 1.

This is the Warriors third straight trip to the Finals.

“Our chemistry is getting better and better,” Durant said after the game. “We’re going to need it even more in the next series, whoever we play, we’re just looking forward to it. I’m glad we got this done.”

There was a lot of respect between the teams after the series, particularly for Ginobili.

“Somebody I grew up watching, amazing competitor, even more fun playing against him,” Durant said after the game. “I got nothing but love and respect for him, plus he wear my shoes every year so that’s a plus. He was phenomenal this series.”

There also was a feeling among fans that we were robbed of a good series by the injury to Leonard (and the cheap play by Zaza Pachulia that caused it). Without Leonard (and Tony Parker) the Spurs struggled to create shots and generate consistent offense against a stout Warriors defense.

It was evident at the start of Game 4. San Antonio opened game 3-of-16 shooting, but the bigger issue is they went 1-of-8 in the paint against a Warriors team that started small (Patrick McCaw instead of JaVale McGee). Meanwhile, the Spurs were 7-of-7 in the paint to start the game. That is why the Warriors raced out to a quick 12 point lead midway through the first quarter.

The game hung around the 10-point era until an 11-0 Warriors run midway through the second quarter. The Spurs kept fighting, they had 13 more shots than the Warriors in the first half — thanks to 9 Golden State turnovers and 8 San Antonio offensive boards — but the Spurs shot 34.5 percent in the first half, and it wasn’t enough because the Warriors shot 60 percent. The Warriors shot 74 percent (14-of-19) in the second quarter. Because of that it was Warriors 65, Spurs 51 at the half, and Curry and Durant each had 18 for Golden State; Kyle Anderson has 10 points to lead the Spurs.

The second half saw the lead bounce between 10 and 20 most of the time, the Spurs would make a little run and the Warriors would answer with some crisp ball movement and a three. Curry was 5-of-13 from three on the night to lead the way.

Draymond Green added 16 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists for the Warriors.

Now the Warriors get more than a week off to rest and prepare for the Finals.

Kevin Durant blocks Dejounte Murray twice on one shot (VIDEO)

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Kevin Durant was doing it all in the first half — he had 18 points to lead the Warriors (tied with Stephen Curry) and was making plays all over the court.

That includes racing back on this play and blocking Dejounte Murray‘s layup. Twice. On one shot.

The Warriors have led by 20 and been in control through the start of the third quarter. KD was at the heart of that.