MINNEAPOLIS — After stringing together their worst stretch of the season through the month of February, the Golden State Warriors were looking to turn the page when they came out of the All-Star break and the calendar flipped to March.
But instead, it was more of the same — perhaps even worse — as they allowed the Minnesota Timberwolves to score the most points by an opponent this season on their way to a 129-114 loss.
The Warriors have now lost three of their past four games and hold just a half-game advantage over the Memphis Grizzlies for second place in the Western Conference standings.
But unlike the Warriors’ other two losses — meltdowns to the Denver Nuggets and Dallas Mavericks — their loss to the Timberwolves lacked every bit of cohesiveness and fight.
“This was the first time I sensed there was a breakdown in our connection, and that has to be an exception rather than a rule,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “So that’s the most important thing for me looking ahead.”
After reviewing the film from the Warriors’ games against Denver and Dallas, Kerr said he liked the way his team played until the fourth quarter of both matches.
The defense was good, he felt, but most importantly, Golden State played with the energy that helps them thrive. But on Tuesday in Minneapolis, all of that was missing.
“[I saw it] all over the place,” said Kerr on how the lack of connectivity manifested against the Timberwolves. “It’s not just a tangible thing as much as it is just a feeling and an energy — a collective spirit. I didn’t like the energy or the spirit tonight.”
While Kerr says his team’s disconnectedness isn’t a tangible, black and white concept, Stephen Curry, who led the Warriors with 34 points, believes it can be traced to one very real thing.
“We have a lot of different rotations and lineups and we try to make adjustments on the fly,” Curry said. “We have to be more in sync as a five-man unit.
The Warriors have been without Draymond Green for 24 games, including the 7 seconds he played on Jan. 9 when Klay Thompson returned. Thompson, meanwhile, hasn’t been a constant fixture for the Warriors due to his minutes restriction and not playing on one end of back-to-back games. Andre Iguodala has missed 15 of the past sixteen games.
Moses Moody, who started in place of Thompson on Tuesday, left the game in the second quarter due to a left eye contusion, which Kerr said is “swollen shut.”
This has resulted in a fluid starting lineup and rotation, barring the Warriors from building any true chemistry. It has also left them without two of their highest IQ players.
“We’ve had a lot of shuffling,” Curry said. “It’s not an excuse for how we’re playing, but we are built as a full team. And until we get that, I’m not sure if we’ll see our full ceiling, but we have to do the little things in the meantime to keep building confidence.”
Thompson, who has missed the past two games due to a general illness, is expected to rejoin the team in Dallas, and he might be active against the Mavericks on Thursday.
Green will also join the team, though there is still no timetable for his return from his back injury. Iguodala is already with the team but isn’t expected to play.
The Warriors are trying to take a big-picture approach while they try to work their way out of their funk. They’re trying to see the silver lining of having their young players, such as Jonathan Kuminga and Moody, get more playing time. They’re emphasizing the job Kevon Looney has done as their only available true big man. They know it’s a long season.
“I’m just trying to stay patient in terms of where we are in the season and what we are trying to do in a month and a half,” Curry said.
“We just have to make sure when we have a night like tonight where we get a little scattered, we’ve got to work to return to home base and remember what the goal is,” Kerr said.
But, the room for error is shrinking quickly, and the Warriors understand that this is the stretch that is supposed to set them up for their playoff run. So, adjustments need to be made now, and they can’t wait to address all their problems until they have a full roster.