The thing about it as that you commit so much effort to trying to slow Steph Curry down – he still gets 45 points. So then you sit there and you wonder, okay, if you don’t do those things and just try to play conventionally, he might get 60. All you can try to do is take the ball out of his hands as much as possible, put pressure on him and test his shots. I thought our guys were there, he just makes those shots. He makes some tough shots.”
— Sam Mitchell, postgame
First of all, it was actually 46 points.
8-of-13 from downtown, 15-of-25 total from the field, and a perfect 8-of-8 from the free throw line. 46 points, as effortless and beautiful as they could be scored, all while providing exquisite point guard play (he had just 4 assists, but must’ve had several “hockey assists” via Draymond Green). Wardell Stephen Curry is somehow, inconceivably, better than he was during his 2014-15 MVP campaign and title run. If he keeps knocking down threes at his current rate, he’ll sink 426 of them this season, shattering the record of 286 which was set by… Curry, in 2014-15.
“The thing I’m proud of,” said Mitchell at the podium afterward, “is that it took (Golden State’s) best game. It took Steph, it took Draymond, it took Klay, it took all of them to have their best game to beat us… for us to hang in there, to be there at the end, it took their best to beat us, and (the Warriors are) really good.”
As soon as the news broke pregame that Ricky Rubio would miss his second consecutive contest, a losing result for Minnesota seemed like a foregone conclusion. Curry, the human blowtorch, would have to be checked by some combination of Zach LaVine, Andre Miller and Tyus Jones. The most any sane person could’ve expected or hoped from a Ricky-less Wolves squad was a fun, semi-competitive game, and incredibly, despite the fact that Curry ate everyone who tried to guard him alive (except for Karl-Anthony Towns, but more on that later), a fun, competitive game was exactly what we got.
Golden State got off to a hot start, led by Curry, who dropped 21 in the opening frame as they built a double digit lead. The second quarter belonged to Wiggins and Muhammad, with Klay Thompson and Ian Clark (wait, who?) splashing home two threes apiece to keep the Warriors out in front at the break, 75-to-63.
Luke Walton only felt comfortably going eight players deep in his rotation: Steph, Klay, Dray, Barnes, Ezeli, Bogut, Iggy, and Livingston. When Curry was on the court, the Warriors were plus-21. Draymond, who flirted with a triple-double (23-8-12), was a game best plus-34. Late in the third period, the Dubs stretched their lead from 15 to 21 in the blink of an eye on a Steph three – Green steal – Steph three sequence, and Minnesota could’ve easily folded. Instead, Andrew Wiggins and Shabazz Muhammad were hyper-aggressive on the offensive end, Nemanja Bjelica moved the ball and set up his teammates, Gorgui’s jumper was hella wet, and Andre Miller used his big ol’ ass to score a few buckets in the post. Just 4:52 of game time later, the lead was down to 5.
With 6:30 to go, Steph checked back in with the Warriors clinging to a six point lead. He hit a deep three almost immediately, then a perfectly long two after Karl-Anthony Towns switched onto him and managed to stay in front. In fact, KAT wound up isolated on Curry a bunch in the final minutes of the game, and the teenager held his own against the MVP. He was easily the best wing defender the Wolves had during the game, which is a pretty cool skill set for a 7’0 250 lb big man to possess. But ultimately, it wasn’t enough, sort of like we all knew it wouldn’t be, and the Warriors pulled away for the win, sort of like we knew they would.
The veracity of moral victories gets debated a ton, just like the topic of Zach LaVine as a point guard, Minnesota’s lack of three-point shooting (nine total for this game), Rubio’s overall health, the precise mixture of veterans and youngsters should play, and on and on and on. But some nights, I can’t even force myself to care too much about all that. All I really knew after watching a game like this one: the Wolves didn’t quit, even (especially) when the MVP was doing his best to pummel them into submission by knocking down one impossible shot after another, KAT looks great, Wiggins does, too, and the Warriors are a goddamn juggernaut.
Golden State is not a measuring stick for Minnesota; they’re in a different stratosphere. There will be other nights, and other opponents that offer a more accurate glimpse into how close or far the Woves are from being a good team. So instead of fretting about details and failures against the Warriors, why not sit back and take in the spectacle? Because when the defending champs roll into town on a long winning streak, and are playing with a chip on their shoulders, and are even somehow better than they were a season ago, what good does worrying do?