SAN FRANCISCO — The Golden State Warriors have struggled to close games all season. And it felt as though they would suffer the same fate Sunday against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
With 26 seconds to go and up by just five, Anthony Lamb turned the ball over on a lazy inbound pass to allow their lead to be cut to three. Six seconds later, Klay Thompson turned the ball over.
But, unlike so many other times, they managed to put the clamps on the Timberwolves and secure a 109-104 victory.
“That was a team win,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “Everybody came in there and competed and played well … against the team we’re tied with in the standings, just an enormous win. … They’re all big, but I liked this one for the grit we had to show to get it done.”
According to Donte DiVincenzo, it all came down to heart.
After a sluggish first three quarters, the momentum of the game began to shift for Golden State with 8:20 left in the fourth quarter. Kerr called a timeout after Austin Rivers hit a 3-pointer to put the Timberwolves up. What was said in that huddle completely shifted the Warriors’ energy.
“We had to keep our heads up,” DiVincenzo said. “We know that when we’re up nine, we’re up 12, the game isn’t over for other teams. They are going to keep fighting, so that was the message during the timeout. We were right there, within striking distance.”
The Warriors went on a 23-5 run following that timeout, including a monster 3-pointer by Thompson around the two-minute mark. Golden State outscored Minnesota 31-17 overall during that period.
Golden State also held Minnesota to just 2-of-8 in clutch time, including 0-of-5 on 3-point attempts. The Timberwolves had just one open look in clutch time.
After he hit the shot, Thompson turned toward Minnesota’s bench, yelling at them and jumping up and down. Thompson finished the night with 32 points on 12-of-23 shooting, including 6-of-14 from three. He also scored or assisted on nine of the Warriors’ 13 points in clutch time.
This comes on the heels of his 42-point performance where he hit 12 3-pointers and no 2-pointers. He’s made 18 3s over his last two games — the second-most in a two-game span in his career (19 earlier this month on Feb. 6 and 8).
“He’s a Hall of Famer,” DiVincenzo said. “What he’s doing is not out of the ordinary. He’s been having a hell of a career. Klay Thompson is still Klay Thompson at the end of the day. That rim is this big at all times. And I love that.”
The Warriors have been relying heavier on Thompson the last two games, as they’ve been without Stephen Curry (left lower leg) and Draymond Green (right knee contusion). They are also playing without Andrew Wiggins as he deals with a family matter, as well as Gary Payton II and Andre Iguodala.
DiVincenzo also added 21 points on 7-of-13 shooting, including 4 3-pointers, eight rebounds and four steals. Kevon Looney finished with 12 points and 17 rebounds (seven offensive boards). He’s grabbed double-figure rebounds in six consecutive games, a new career-best.
With no clear timetable for any of their absent players’ returns, grinding this win out of the Timberwolves was a massive confidence booster. It also had a big impact on the standings.
Heading into Sunday’s game, the Warriors and Timberwolves both had .500 records and were tied for seventh and eighth place in the play-in tournament. With Golden State’s win, it now has a half-game advantage for seventh place over the Utah Jazz and trails the Dallas Mavericks in sixth by another half-game.
“Gotta be aware,” Thompson said about keeping an eye on the standings. “[A win like Sunday’s] is huge. Every game matters, but from here on out especially. The West is jam-packed right now. … Every game from here on out is incredibly important.”