Wolves look to hurt Warriors’ quest for top seed
OAKLAND, Calif. — Having completed one of the most impressive four-game stretches in NBA history, the Golden State Warriors begin the countdown to the postseason Tuesday night when they entertain the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Warriors (63-14) still have work to do over the final five games of the regular season in order to wrap up the best record in the NBA and its reward — home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
Golden State’s magic number is three — any combination of three Warriors wins and/or San Antonio Spurs losses would clinch the prestigious distinction. The Spurs (59-17) host the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday night.
The Warriors have won 11 in a row, including five straight over Memphis, the Houston Rockets (twice), San Antonio and the Washington Wizards in an eight-day stretch that ended Sunday.
The last four in the run — all but the Memphis game — came against teams with winning percentages north of .600. The Warriors became just the second team in NBA history to beat four such opponents in succession in March or later, with the 2004-05 Rockets the first.
Impressed by his club’s recent form, Warriors coach Steve Kerr nonetheless kept his eye on the prize during his postgame press conference Sunday.
“We want to get the No. 1 seed. We are not home yet. We are getting closer,” he said. “It would be nice to rest some players down the stretch. We wanted to get through (the Washington) game before discussing anything like that.”
Kerr ruled out Kevin Durant (sprained knee) for at least the next two games. But if fellow All-Stars Stephen Curry and Draymond Green continue their recent form, chances are it won’t matter.
Curry bombed in 42 points in the win over the Wizards, with 27 of the 42 coming on 3-pointers. The nine threes raised his season total to 302, pushing him past 300 for the second straight year.
Green, meanwhile, posted his 19th career triple-double against Washington with 11 points, 12 rebounds and 13 assists. The Warriors have never lost when Green has put up a triple-double.
The Timberwolves (31-45), meanwhile, have assured themselves of a 13th straight season without the playoffs. They have been relegated to spoiler role, and they have been successful their fair share of times. On Monday night, Minnesota earned a 110-109 home triumph over the Portland Trail Blazers, who are battling for the last Western Conference postseason spot.
“I don’t think about spoilers. I think we’re building something,” said Wolves center Karl-Anthony Towns, who finished with 34 points and 12 rebounds Monday. “Regardless of what our record is, we’ve got to go out there and play basketball the right way. … Every game, every second, every practice, every workout is valuable to building a championship team, and that’s how we need to look at it.”
The Wolves have won five of their past 10 games against teams either battling for playoff position or jockeying for postseason seeding, including the victory over Portland.
The 10-game stretch also included a 103-102 home win over the Warriors last month, which at the time positioned the Timberwolves within 2 1/2 games of the final playoff spot in the West.
“We are learning and getting experience,” Minnesota veteran Ricky Rubio said at the time. “These game are meaning a lot. We are going after it.”