The Minnesota Timberwolves already knew they were facing an uphill battle entering Thursday night's nationally televised home game against the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors. The task of defeating the league's last remaining unbeaten team seemed to become insurmountable when the Wolves announced before tip that Ricky Rubio — both Minnesota's top table-setter and one of the league's premier defenders at point guard — would miss his second straight game with a left hamstring strain.
At that point, the main questions on the minds of many observers were how large the Warriors' final margin of victory would be, and how many points 2014-15 NBA Most Valuable Player and leading early candidate for 2015-16 honors Stephen Curry would tally by game's end.
The answer to the first: a comparatively modest 13, in a 129-116 final owed in large part to yeoman's work from the Timberwolves bench. It might not seem like much, especially for a Wolves club that entered the game at 4-3 but had yet to win a game at Target Center this season, but staying close without Rubio while getting strong second-unit play and flashes from No. 1 picks Andrew Wiggins (19 points, five assists, yet another awesome spin move) and Karl-Anthony Towns (17 points and 11 rebounds, slotting him alongside Shaquille O'Neal, Dikembe Mutombo and David Robinson as just the fourth player in the last 30 years to notch six double-doubles in his first eight pro games) seems like a solid moral victory, all things considered.
The answer to the second: a not-modest-at-all 46, as the baddest man in the NBA propelled the Warriors to 10-0 — the best start in franchise history, a mark equalled by only three other defending champions — by continuing to weave dribble-drive nightmares and drop long-range bombs in a manner unlike anything we've ever seen.
Curry made 15 of his 25 shots from the field, including an 8-for-13 mark from 3-point range, to go with five rebounds, four assists, two steals and just three turnovers. Golden State outscored Minnesota by 21 points in Curry's 37 minutes and 42 seconds of playing time. The Wolves chopped eight points off the Warriors' lead in the 10 minutes and 18 seconds that Curry got to rest.
If you're looking for a dark cloud within the silver lining that's been Golden State's impeccable start, there it is; at some point, Klay Thompson's going to have to string together multiple consistent-enough offensive performances to be able to give Steph a break from shouldering the scoring load. For the time being, though, putting the ball in Curry's hands and saying, "Be incomprehensible magic," has seemed like a pretty damn good play call for interim head coach Luke Walton.
That's not to say that Curry doesn't have help, of course. Draymond Green continued his stellar all-around play to start the season, scoring a season-high 23 points on 8-for-10 shooting to go with a season-high 12 assists (one shy of his career high), seven rebounds, two steals, two blocks and his customary mix of aggressive on-ball and heady off-ball defense in 35 minutes.
Green, not Curry, leads the Warriors in assists. The Michigan State product's now averaging 6.6 helpers a night, taking advantage of the double-teams and traps that Curry draws to serve as the release-valve playmaker who attacks defenses 4-on-3, which tends to result in exceedingly high-percentage looks like these:
Green's scoring and playmaking accounted for a shade over 40 percent of the Warriors' offense on Thursday:
Draymond Green scored 23 points. His 12 assists led to 29 points. 52 points accounted for (not including secondary assists, passes to FT).
— Maxwell Ogden (@MaxwellOgden) November 13, 2015
Green wasn't alone in his supporting role, either. Harrison Barnes chipped in 14 points and four rebounds in 23 minutes, including a big offensive rebound and putback midway through the fourth quarter. Big men Festus Ezeli and Andrew Bogut combined for 14 points on 7-for-10 shooting, eight rebounds, five assists and three blocks in the middle. Key wing reserves Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston didn't have their finest hours, but they did add nine dimes without a turnover, helping Golden State to notch 34 assists on 48 made field goals, continuing the team's eye-popping commitment to sharing the ball.
As ever, though, it all starts and ends with Curry, who largely had his way with Rubio's ill-suited defensive replacements — the young Zach LaVine and the, shall we say, distinguished Andre Miller — from the opening tip. Whether pulling up from wherever the hell he pleased or getting all the way to the cup, Curry served notice early, pouring in 21 in the first quarter to stake the Dubs to a 40-27 lead after 12 minutes:
It was Curry's fourth 20-plus-point quarter of the season — that's how many Russell Westbrook had all last year, and he led the league in that category in 2014-15 — and the Warriors' fourth 40-point frame of the season. Here's where we remind you that this was the 10th game of the season.
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He kept it going thereafter, mixing in off-the-bounce wizardry and ludicrous interior finishes ...
... alongside his now-nightly incredible make from beyond the arc, this time coming after Miller had knocked the ball from his grasp while in mid-air, forcing him to gather it again while rising to fire:
... alongside just regular funny stuff, like reducing Kevin Martin to tugging on Curry's shorts to try to stop him:
That, like just about everything else the Wolves tried on Thursday — with the limited exceptions of some possessions where Wiggins drew the assignment (a switch we'd have liked to see Sam Mitchell flip earlier and more often) and where rookie Towns showed off his dynamite footwork in staying with Curry off a switch — didn't work. This was far from Golden State's perfect game, but the Dubs still never trailed; even when Minnesota drew within five early in the fourth following a hellacious 20-5 run by their second unit, the Warriors barely even seemed threatened. Would you, if you knew you could just throw the ball to No. 30 and watch fantasy take tangible shape?
Curry now has three of the NBA's nine 40-point games this season. He's the first Warriors to score 40 or more three times in a season's first 10 games in 41 years. He is now two 3-pointers away from tying his father Dell Curry's career mark for made triples; he has played 657 fewer games than dear ol' Dad.
He's averaging a league-leading 33.3 points per game on shooting percentages that would make him the majority owner of the 50-40-90 Club — 53.2 percent from the field, 47.6 percent from 3-point range on 11 attempts per game, 92.6 percent from the foul line — while creating countless favorable scoring opportunities for his teammates by virtue of the sheer terror he strikes into the heart of opposing defenses. He is hunting mammoth, historic game every time he takes the court:
Curry's 333 points thru 10 games are most in NBA since Jordan had 338 in 1992-93
— Josh Dubow (@JoshDubowAP) November 13, 2015
... and he doesn't sound satisfied yet.
"We're 10-0 and we feel like we can get better," Curry told TNT's David Aldridge after the game.
For a league that hasn't exactly had the easiest time catching up with Steph and company as it is, that's a pretty scary thought.
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