SAN FRANCISCO – The Timberwolves find themselves in an unfamiliar position this season. They have won six consecutive games, with the latest coming 116-110 over Golden State on Sunday night. That tops every win streak they had last season.
But the flavor of their last two wins has been both sweet and sour, and ultimately that's a good thing for this team. The Wolves have won their last two without playing their best basketball, something that is almost unheard of in their recent history.
Take Sunday, when their rebounding was woeful and they were careless with the ball in the first half against the Warriors.
"The first half was just ugly," coach Chris Finch said.
But they still won, and that's worth something. The Wolves were able to fix their issues in both areas and played a much better second half when they pulled away from Golden State with a 35-22 third quarter. It also marked the second consecutive win in which the Wolves came out of the locker room a much improved team after the half.
"You don't want to have to always have lessons from losing," said guard Mike Conley, who had eight points and nine assists. "You can still get those lessons when you win those games and find ways to do it. For us, we've definitely been fortunate to come away with some wins in games that quite frankly a year ago we might not have been able to come out with."
That is the key difference between recent seasons and now. The Wolves are able to win these games because their defense sets a sturdy foundation for potential success. They held the Warriors to 39% shooting. Stephen Curry had 38 points, but no other Warrior had more than 16.
The Wolves bounced back after allowing 11 offensive rebounds and committing nine turnovers in the first half. They committed just five in the second half.
Also on offense, Anthony Edwards got hot from the midrange to score eight straight Wolves points in the final minutes to keep Golden State at an arm's length. He mentioned Conley told him to stop shooting so many three-point attempts, which were ending up short. He was just 1-for-9 from deep. The move inside the line worked. He finished with 33 points on 11-for-27 shooting, including 4-for-9 in the fourth quarter.
"We know how it feels to lose, and we've lost the last three years," Edwards said.
Then in something that hasn't happened in his career, Edwards couldn't correctly remember just how many consecutive games the Wolves have won.
"We've won like four or five games in a row, and we like the feeling," Edwards said. "I don't think we're too high or too low. We're just right here, because we know how it feels to lose. I don't think we want to go back there."
Karl-Anthony Towns had one of his best games of the young season in scoring 21 points on an efficient 8-for-14 shooting to go with 14 rebounds and some noteworthy defense, specifically on a sequence in the fourth quarter when he prevented Jonathan Kuminga from getting a putback layup off a Klay Thompson miss as Golden State was trying to make a run.
"We should be greedy over getting wins," Towns said. "The standards we set for ourselves in the offseason, I'm really happy to see those carry over. But it's about consistency. It's about doing it every single game regardless of how you feel."
The defense has been consistent, and because of that the Wolves have won six straight. Rudy Gobert has manned the rim the way he did when he was winning Defensive Player of the Year trophies. Jaden McDaniels made Curry work for everything he got by chasing him around the perimeter. Conley helped limit Thompson to 5-for-16 shooting and 16 points, while Edwards locked down Andrew Wiggins (six points).
"Got to get better through winning," Finch said. "I thought tonight we left a lot of meat on the bone."
But they still ate enough to feel satiated.