Timberwolves-Warriors Preview

The Associated Press

The Golden State Warriors just failed to lock up their first playoff berth in six seasons. Now they'll need some help if they're going to get that done Tuesday night.

Golden State goes for a sixth straight victory over an improving Minnesota Timberwolves team that's seeking its fourth win in five games.

Golden State (44-33) could have punched its postseason ticket for the first time since 2006-07 on Sunday against Utah. The Warriors, though, fell 97-90 for their first loss in four games.

"They played like a team that their playoff lives depended on this game,'' Golden State coach Mark Jackson said of the Jazz. "We played, at times, like a team that had a cushion.''

The Warriors have a one-game lead over Houston for the sixth seed, but with the Rockets facing conference-worst Phoenix on Tuesday, there's no room for error. Houston also owns the tiebreaker by virtue of taking three of four from Golden State.

"We still control our own situation, which is good, but you don't want to have this feeling again,'' point guard Stephen Curry said. "We've got to get it done and there's no excuse for us not to.''

The Warriors, though, will need help for that to happen Tuesday. They'll clinch a playoff spot if they complete a four-game sweep of Minnesota (29-47) and the Los Angeles Lakers lose at home to New Orleans.

The Warriors can't concern themselves with that game, as they'll be facing a Timberwolves team that's won six of 10 while scoring at least 107 points five times in that span. Minnesota has hit that mark in its past three victories.

The Wolves beat Detroit 107-101 on Saturday to make coach Rick Adelman the eighth coach in history with 1,000 wins.

"He deserves it,'' said point guard Ricky Rubio, who went 1 for 13 from the field but had six assists, five rebounds and five steals. "What he did this season, it's amazing. He stayed with the team. He had some issues, but he gets through those issues and still gets with us."

The injury-plagued Timberwolves will miss the playoffs for a ninth consecutive season, but they have a chance to win four straight road games for the first time since Jan. 3-19, 2009.

Minnesota, which fell 96-85 at Oakland on Nov. 24, could get off to a good start on its three-game trip with another big effort from Nikola Pekovic. The third-year center has averaged 22.7 points and 11.1 rebounds in his last seven contests.

Pekovic has scored 38 points in two games against Golden State this season after missing the first meeting - a 106-98 home loss Nov. 16 - with a sprained left ankle.

Golden State's David Lee notched his third consecutive and league-best 52nd double-double Sunday with 21 points and 13 rebounds, but it wasn't enough to get him into the playoffs for the first time in his eight-year career.

"It's going to happen another night," Lee said.