OAKLAND, CALIF. – Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau likes to say the games played will tell a team exactly where it is.
So what does their 125-101 thumping at Golden State on Wednesday night tell them?
“It tells us that we got humbled tonight,” Wolves veteran forward Taj Gibson said.
Gone is the Wolves’ five-game winning streak, the franchise’s longest since Kevin McHale coached Kevin Love and Al Jefferson in January 2009.
With the best of intentions, the Wolves recorded 11 steals on the Warriors’ 13 first-half turnovers, trailed by a point at halftime. Then they watched it all come undone with a lopsided 44-26 third quarter that included Golden State’s 18-4 run.
Missing injured superstar Kevin Durant, the Warriors made five three-pointers — as many as the Wolves made all night — in the third quarter alone and made 15 of 36 attempts in the game. They also with top reserve Andre Iguodala inserted into Durant’s small-forward spot had 37 assists on their 48 made field goals.
Until Wednesday, the Wolves had held their last three opponents to fewer than 100 points. The Warriors reached 100 with 10 minutes still left to play.
“It’s a learning curve,” Gibson said. “That’s what happens when you’re feeling good: Five-game winning streak, people telling you how good you are. We just got humbled. Back to the drawing board and learn from it. I’m excited for the next game. I know we’re going to bounce back even better.”
They weren’t feeling so well by the end after they trailed by as many as 26 points in the fourth quarter and finished the game with Thibodeau insisting that his starters play almost until the bitter end.
Guards Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague played until fewer than three minutes remained on a night when they were outscored by Golden States’ Stephen Curry-Klay Thompson backcourt 60-25. Fellow starters Gibson, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Thibodeau replaced fellow starters Gibson, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins with Aaron Brooks and Marcus Georges-Hunt, among others, almost immediately thereafter.
By the time Thibodeau made the substitutions, the Wolves trailed by 25 points even though Durant didn’t play because of a bruised thigh sustained in a Monday victory over Miami.
Asked if he was trying to send a message or letting his players play through it, Thibodeau said, “A little bit of both. I always think with our team if we can get it to 10, we could have a chance. I wanted to see if we could do that. So they had a long rest in the third. That’s what that was about.”
Wiggins and Teague played the entire third quarter, Gibson and Butler played nearly nine minutes each in a quarter when the Wolves trailed by 21.
After that, the closest the Wolves came in the fourth quarter was 15 points in its opening minute.
“It’s a game of runs that you have to be able to withstand and we did not do that,” Butler said. “Really good team, obviously, with or without K.D. But in all aspects of the game, they whipped our tails. They outrebounded us (45-41), made shots we didn’t. They guarded, we didn’t. All of that good stuff, they did it. Rightfully so, you can see how the game turned out.”
Thibodeau said he and his coaches would examine the game video, break it down and fix the errors made.
“I think you learn a lot from playing against them,” Thibodeau said. “That’s what a championship team looks like. They play hard. They play together. They make plays. Their defense over the last five games has been back to what their defense is. That’s why they’ve been able to win the way they’ve won. Their willingness to sacrifice and play for each other is what makes them great.”
It doesn’t hurt that the Warriors have the kind of pure shooters — several of them — that the Wolves despite last summer’s roster makeover lack.
Thibodeau spoke about both his team’s play and the Warriors’ play matter-of-factly afterward to the media and apparently to his players, too.
“Thibs talked to us for a good minute,” Gibson said. “He didn’t yell at us. He just basically had a regular conversation, him telling us where we need to be and what he wants us to do. I think it was great for us … We just got humbled. The film is going to tell us more. I’m excited to watch the film from it, learn from it and move forward.”
After Wednesday’s game, Butler said his team didn’t play nearly hard enough and yet didn’t question their drive to win.
“I think everybody means well, I think everybody is in this thing to win,” Butler said. “When your hearts are pure like that, it’ll happen. We just have to be better. Everyone in this locker room, in this organization wants to win. That’s the start of it, but we have to do the right things to win. We’re going to be OK. It’s one game.
“I tell you one thing: We can’t get happy when we win a few because that’s what happens, the game will humble you quick.”