On the list of big signings over this blockbuster NBA free agent summer, Dorell Wright landing in Golden State barely even registered.
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Everyone is starting to take notice now.
Wright scored a career-high 30 points and set a franchise record with nine 3-pointers to lead Golden State to a 104-94 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday night, snapping the Warriors’ five-game losing streak.
”It’s been 10 times better than what I thought it would be,” said Wright, who had averaged 6.3 points a game in his first six seasons with Miami. ”I’m enjoying myself. We’ve struggled the past few games, but I think we’re going to get back on the right track when we get everybody healthy.”
Monta Ellis had 26 points, 10 assists and seven steals in 48 minutes and David Lee returned from an eight-game absence for the Warriors, who won for just the second time since Lee went down with a staph infection in his left elbow on Nov. 10.
Kevin Love had 21 points and 22 rebounds for the Timberwolves, his fourth 20-20 game of the season. The Timberwolves turned the ball over 22 times, leading to 32 Golden State points and negating a 55-32 advantage in rebounds.
Michael Beasley had 28 points and nine rebounds for the Wolves, who have lost four in a row.
”I was disappointed with our focus and effort,” Wolves coach Kurt Rambis said. ”For the first time all season long, I don’t think our guys were there.”
Wright has flourished with starter’s minutes with Golden State. He never averaged more than 7.9 points a game with the Heat, but entered the night scoring 14.6 for the Warriors.
Wright hit four 3-pointers during a three-and-a-half minute-stretch of the third quarter to help the Warriors take control. With Ellis and Steph Curry breaking the Wolves defense down with dribble penetration, Beasley continued to leave him to help other defenders. Wright just kept burying open jumper after open jumper.
He only missed three of his 12 3-point attempts to break Jason Richardson’s team record of eight, and the Warriors held an opponent under 100 points for the first time since a win over Detroit on Nov. 15.
His final 3 of the barrage gave Golden State a 76-64 lead.
”He’s been doing that all season,” Ellis said. ”We’ve just got to continue to get him the ball. We had the faith in him to knock it down, he had the faith to knock it down.”
It wasn’t just his shot-making that helped the Warriors on Saturday night. The Wolves pulled within eight with seven minutes to play and Ellis was furious after a foul call on the defensive end. The star guard was throwing his hands up in frustration, but Wright grabbed him and calmed him down before he could draw a technical foul for demonstration that would have put the Wolves at the line again.
After a defensive stop, Lee scored on a putback and Ellis drilled a jumper to push the lead back to 12, and the Wolves never threatened after that.
The Warriors (8-9) improved to 7-2 with Lee in the lineup.
”First of all, I know we can get some wins and beat some teams,” Lee said. ”I told you I wanted to be judged on wins and losses and so far that’s going pretty good when I’m in there. I just need to find a way to stay healthy and keep helping our teams.”
It was a big step back for the Timberwolves, who had been playing pretty well lately. They took the San Antonio Spurs into overtime on Wednesday and played Atlanta, Charlotte and Oklahoma City tough on the road in the last two weeks. But the losing may be starting to take a toll on the youngest team in the league.
”You could see that blank look on their face for the majority of the ballgame,” Rambis said.
Love, the NBA’s leading rebounder, outdid the Warriors all by himself in the first half, 14-13. He was so dominant on the glass that Golden State coach Keith Smart was forced to keep Andris Biedrins in the game despite his foul trouble. He grabbed 11 of his team’s 13 rebounds, but picked up his fourth foul late in the first half.
Love didn’t have as many opportunities for boards in the second half, with Wright hitting every shot he took.
”He just needed a shot,” said Beasley, who played with Wright for the previous two seasons in Miami. ”He just needed some minutes. I practiced with him for two years and I’ve seen it in him.”
NOTES: Love is the first player since Kevin Willis in 1991 to record four 20-20 games in one month. … Lee finished with 10 points and six rebounds in 43 minutes. … Curry had 20 points and three steals for Golden State. … Timberwolves TV analyst Jim Petersen called the game on Saturday night, three days after suffering a heart attack.