Golden State's injured Stephen Curry and Draymond Green missed Sunday's game against the Timberwolves, which created more space on the Target Center stage for the Warriors' Klay Thompson in his fourth game back after 2 ½ years away.
And that's just fine both ways with Wolves coach Chris Finch.
The absences kept away two stars who have led the Warriors to a 31-11 record. They also presented a bigger part Sunday for Thompson, an All-Star shooting guard whom Finch admires.
"Super exciting to have him back," Finch said. "He has been one of my favorite players. Great to see him back."
Finch faced Thompson plenty when he coached in Houston and New Orleans against the Warriors. That is until consecutive ACL and Achilles injuries sidelined Thompson beginning with the 2019 NBA Finals.
Finch estimated it'll take Thompson 20 games to get his legs back, but saw him Sunday in Game 4 on Thompson's road back. Thompson started and played nearly 23 minutes on a time limit. He shot 5-for-14 — including 3-for-8 on threes — and scored 13 points.
"High-level, two-way player with a big care factor," Finch said when asked what he likes so much about the son of former Gophers star Mychal Thompson. "Played against him a ton in the playoffs and every time they needed rescuing he was the guy who stepped up. Just love his approach: never too high, never too low.
"Always impressive to watch him guard like (James) Harden through our series. He just took the challenge and anybody else that you throw at him."
Former No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins played against Thompson for five seasons when Wiggins played for the Wolves. Now he has played with him for a week.
"He's a game-changer," said Wiggins, whose return Sunday was greeted with a smattering of boos. "He heats up quick."
Wolves guard Jaylen Nowell returned to action late in Sunday's first quarter after he missed only Thursday's game at Memphis because of an ankle injured Tuesday in New Orleans. He played 24-plus minutes and added 17 points to a Wolves bench that outscored Golden State's 57-38.
"It wasn't as bad as it looked," Finch said.
Nothing to prove
The last time these teams played, Wiggins went 9-for-9 in the first half and scored 35 points in a 123-110 victory in San Francisco in November. He has done something similar to his former Cleveland and hometown Toronto teams.
"Just some good competitive spirit," said Wiggins, who was dealt in a February 2020 trade that brought back D'Angelo Russell. "Nothing to prove to them. It was a good chapter in my life here. I learned a lot. I have some good memories with some good people and now it's on to the next chapter. That's all it is."
He was comparatively quiet against a former team Sunday with a 12-point, 4-assist night. Wiggins has played well enough supplying wing length the Warriors desperately needed that the team is touting him for All-Star consideration.
Belly comes back
Former Wolves forward Nemanja Bjelica is averaging 15.1 minutes and 6.4 points off the bench after Golden State signed him last summer to a vet's minimum contract.
"I love Belly," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "He has great feel. The game really flows when he's on the court. Great passer. He understands the game. He can step out and knock down a three. Even when he's not shooting well, the game really flows."
Bjelica went 1-for-6 and scored six points in nearly 15 minutes in his return to an arena where he played his first three NBA seasons.
• Kerr called himself "honored and excited" to be named in December the Team USA head coach until 2024. Included is the 2023 FIBA World Cup in the Philippines (provided Team USA qualifies) and and the 2024 Paris Olympics. "It's going to be an amazing basketball experience."
• Guard Jordan McLaughlin was out Sunday because of health and safety protocols. Assistant coach Kevin Burleson returned to work, but Pablo Prigioni and a team video coordinator remain sidelined by COVID-19 issues.