MINNEAPOLIS — When Minnesota Timberwolves guard Luke Ridnour's floater fell short, Stephen Curry scooped up the rebound and heaved it to the other end of the court as the horn sounded. A celebration immediately ensued.
The Warriors had escaped the Target Center with a 100-99 victory. They shouted, chest bumped and high-fived. But when they got to the locker room, Warriors coach Mark Jackson killed the buzz.
"The good teams win when they're not at their best," Jackson said. "That being said, I told my guys we have graduated from the stage where a win is a win. We can't be satisfied with that. We walk out of here with a win, but we've got to do better."
No doubt, the Warriors head for Indiana back at 10 games above .500 after their third straight win. For a team still feeling the sting of a six-game skid, and that had lost five straight on the road, Golden State is not quite ready to scoff at victories.
But in the grand scheme of things, how they won left a bad taste in their mouths. The Warriors are entering the stretch run of the season. Their level of play should be turning up a notch, and that looked to be the case in Friday's benchmark win over San Antonio.
But Sunday, the Warriors struggled against a team already certain to be watching the playoffs and without its best player. And it wasn't as if the Timberwolves played lights out. The Warriors beat themselves.
Their 22 turnovers (six by Curry) led to 32 points for Minnesota. Untimely fouls — the Warriors committed 28, their third-highest total of the season — gave the Timberwolves life. And soft interior defense led to 62 points in the paint for Minnesota.
"If we play like this the rest of this road trip," Warriors rookie forward Draymond Green said, "we won't win another game."
The Warriors trailed by as much as 16 in the first half. They were down nine early in the fourth quarter. But a 7-0 run tightened the game. After forward Carl Landry (19 points, nine rebounds) banked in a runner, the Warriors trailed 85-83 with 7:37 left.
Golden State eventually took the lead, 96-95, on a Jarrett Jack 3-pointer with 1:48 left. But the Warriors gave the lead right back when Ricky Rubio blew by Curry and wound up with an easy layup.
Curry answered with a 22-footer with 1:09 left. The Warriors followed with a clutch stop as Jack rebounded Andrei Kirilenko's missed 3.
Golden State had multiple chances to put away the game. Jack missed a runner and rookie forward Harrison Barnes got the offensive rebound. He was fouled and split the free throws.
But Green wrested away the offensive rebound, and rookie guard Kent Bazemore was fouled with 30.9 seconds left. But he also split the free throws. After the miss, Landry fouled Rubio 90 feet from the rim. Rubio's free throws cut the Warriors' lead to 100-99 with 30.4 left.
Jack missed the dagger jumper with 10.9 left, giving Minnesota a chance to win it in the final seconds. Ridnour took it the length of the court, but the Warriors had enough gusto for one more stop.
Perhaps there is something to be said for pulling out wins they don't deserve.
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