The Golden State Warriors had seemingly locked up win No. 70. After Stephen Curry hit back-to-back three-pointers to give them a 12-point lead over the Minnesota Timberwolves with 1:20 left in the third quarter, all that was left to do was think about whether the Warriors were going to win three of their last four to break the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls' record of 72 wins in a season. But then Andrew Wiggins and the Timberwolves made different plans.
The Timberwolves fought back in the fourth quarter to force overtime, and were the better team in the extra frame as they stunned the Warriors on the road, 124-117. They deflated the air of invincibility surrounding this Warriors team, making them look mortal on a home floor where they once seemed unbeatable. Golden State has now lost two of three in Oakland.
Shabazz Muhammad scored 35 points and Wiggins had 32 to lead the Timberwolves to the improbable victory -- the Warriors' win probability was 99.5 percent at one point -- on a night when Curry's shot struggled. Curry ended the night with 21 points on 7-of-25 shooting from the field and 4-of-14 from deep.
Wiggins and soon-to-be Rookie of the Year Karl-Anthony Towns simply outplayed and outlasted Curry and the NBA champions. The two youngsters came in and outworked the Warriors down the stretch. Minnesota was the confident team full of composure as it erased a 17-point deficit and came back from three down in the final minute of regulation. Wiggins was superb in the second half and overtime, scoring 27 of his points after the first half as Towns added 20 points and 12 rebounds. The first pick in last summer's NBA Draft was too big and athletic for the Warriors on both sides of the ball. They are lucky he won't be playing in the postseason.
The athleticism of Towns caused fits for the Warriors on defense, too. For once the Warriors looked lost offensively. They forced shots and passes, turning the ball over 23 times on the night.
The Warriors looked like an exhausted team. The oomph that carried them to wins in games like this all season wasn't there, and the shots weren't falling to save them. They had the Timberwolves on the ropes, but were unable to put them away. Instead, Minnesota fought back and Golden State had no answer. Klay Thompson had 28 points, but was only 4-of-11 from deep. Draymond Green had six turnovers and fouled out. Nothing could go right for the Warriors.
All this being said, it's not exactly time for the Warriors to panic. They're still 69-9 and likely to become the second team in NBA history to win 70 games. And it's not like an all-time great team hasn't had a few lapses at the end of the season:
Tidbit: The 95-96 Bulls lost 2 of their last 4 home games in April. They were undefeated at home before that.— Rosalyn Gold-Onwude (@ROSGO21) April 6, 2016
There's still a long way to go before anyone should be calling the Warriors done -- they could sweep the final four games of the season to finish 73-9, for example -- but a loss like this to the Timberwolves certainly puts a dent in the armor.
3 other things
There's a youth movement in Miami
This isn't the Miami Heat you're used to. Sure, Dwyane Wade is still there, and sure, Coach Erik Spoelstra has a swarming defense, but the Heat are riding their youngsters as the postseason approaches. Rookie Josh Richardson, a second-round draft pick, had 16 points off the bench to run the Detroit Pistons out of the gym in a 107-89 win Tuesday night. Richardson is making 62.3 percent of his shots from deep since March 1. His instant offense off the bench in the first half -- he had 14 points and was 3-of-3 from deep -- helped the Heat burst out to an 18-point lead at the break. Richardson finished the night with 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting while going 4-for-5 from beyond the arc.
Richardson is averaging 12.1 points per game since March 1. It's a remarkable stretch that's helping the Heat reach new heights. When he's on the court, their net rating (a team's point differential per 100 possessions) is +8.4, per NBA.com/stats. When he's off the court it's +1.7. The Heat are 12-6 in that stretch. With the three-point threat that Richardson is becoming, the offense is loose and free -- and better.
The Pistons had no answer for the Heat's suffocating defense and attacking offense, a combo that could spell fits for Eastern Conference playoff opponents.
The Grizzlies aren't done yet, but the Bulls might be
With both teams in desperate need of wins to keep their playoff hopes alive, the injury-depleted Grizzlies ran the Bulls off the floor in a 108-92 win to move 3.5 games up on the Rockets with four to play. Zach Randolph had a vintage performance with 27 points and 10 rebounds as the Grizzlies halted a six-game skid. The Grizzlies are 3-10 in their last 13, but could still sneak into the playoffs -- now fifth in the West. They face the Dallas Mavericks on Friday in a must-win game with two games against the Warriors and one against the Clippers to close out the season.
The Bulls, meanwhile, missed out on a great opportunity to catch a game on the Pistons, who lost to the Heat. Instead, the loss kept them two games out of the playoffs with four games to play -- and Detroit has the tiebreaker over Chicago. The Bulls face the Heat on Thursday and the Cavaliers on Saturday. They'll need to pick up a win in one of those games if they want to make the playoffs.
Never forget that Kawhi Leonard is a superstar
He was also crossing over the Jazz like he was Allen Iverson and putting on his usual display of defensive dominance. The win gave the Spurs their 65th on the season. At this point, it's a countdown until the playoffs. Then, we'll finally get to see the Warriors and Spurs going at each other over seven games. It can't come soon enough.
Play of the night
Giannis Antetokounmpo going Statue of Liberty like he did against the Cavaliers is about as good as it gets. The Greek Freak had 22 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists, but the Cavaliers dominated the Milwaukee Bucks 109-80.
4 fun things
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