MINNEAPOLIS — As Minnesota’s measuring-stick matchup with Golden State hung in the balance, the Timberwolves turned the game over to Karl-Anthony Towns.
Their flourishing young center took over in the final stretch.
Towns helped Minnesota stop a season-high three-game losing streak with 31 points and 16 rebounds, and the Timberwolves powered their way past Golden State down the stretch for a 109-103 victory on Sunday to hand the Warriors their second consecutive defeat without star Stephen Curry.
“Obviously it’s humbling, just that they respect the work I put into my craft,” said Towns, who had 14 points in the fourth quarter. “I’m blessed with the opportunity to catch the ball with that kind of situation and be able to capitalize.”
Kevin Durant had 39 points and 12 rebounds for the Warriors, who left Curry at home from this road trip to rest an injured ankle and lost 125-108 to Portland on Friday, but he made just 11 of 32 field goal tries.
“I’m very confident in where we’re heading,” said coach Steve Kerr, whose team fell two losses behind Western Conference leader Houston. “But we’re in the middle of a tough stretch.”
Andrew Wiggins added 23 points for the Timberwolves, who lost twice on the road to the defending champion Warriors earlier this season by a combined 37 points. Curry had a collective plus-36 rating over those two games.
With their spot in the ultracompetitive Western Conference standings slipping while All-Star Jimmy Butler recuperates from right knee surgery, the Wolves needed this win in the worst way in the thick of a daunting stretch of their schedule. They’re tied for fourth place but only 1½ games above the cut for the playoffs.
Towns made his All-Star presence felt when it mattered most, swishing a 3-pointer with 5:54 left to give the Wolves a 99-92 edge for their largest lead since early in the second quarter. He knocked down a floater from the lane with 2:18 to go. He hit a fadeaway with 1:08 remaining. Then he dropped in a layup follow of his own miss with 37.5 seconds left to put the game away. He held out his long arms and cupped his hands to encourage the crowd as the last seconds ticked off the clock.
This was the 13th sellout of the season for the Wolves, their most since 2003-04 when they last made the playoffs.
“It was like a sixth player in the game. It was fun,” said Nemanja Bjelica, who had 10 points and seven rebounds to give the whole Wolves starting lineup double-digit scoring. Taj Gibson (11 points, 13 rebounds) and Jeff Teague (10 points, 10 assists) joined Towns with double-doubles, and most important, the energy on defense was as high as it’s been since Butler went down with a knee injury six games ago.
“With Jimmy out, we have to understand how important that is,” coach Tom Thibodeau said.
Klay Thompson had 21 points for the Warriors, who led by as much as 57-45 in the third quarter, but he went 3 for 12 from 3-point range. Draymond Green added 10 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, but he had trouble defending Towns down low. Zaza Pachulia pitched in 16 points and 11 rebounds, but without their catalyst, Curry, the Warriors weren’t the same.