With eye on play-in berth, Warriors take on Timberwolves

NBA

The Golden State Warriors will be in the unusual position of benefitting if they do and benefitting if they don’t when they visit the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday night.

As the result of a trade involving D’Angelo Russell and Andrew Wiggins last season, the Warriors (31-31) will get the Timberwolves’ first-round pick this year if Minnesota does not finish in the top three in the lottery.

Golden State has been rooting for the Timberwolves (19-44) to win, and the Russell- and Karl-Anthony Towns-led club has done a good job of that of late. Minnesota has won a season-best three in a row, including two straight over Utah.

The more the Timberwolves win, the less their chances of finishing in the top three in the lottery diminish. Minnesota will enter play Thursday with the third-worst record in the NBA, with still a realistic chance of catching Detroit and/or Oklahoma City in the standings.

The Timberwolves will take the court against the Warriors hoping for continued impressive play from Towns, Russell and rookie Anthony Edwards, a trio that has rarely played together this season with Towns and Russell often out of the lineup.

The threesome joined forces in two season-opening wins, then just two more times before having gotten back together for 11 of the last 13 contests.

Minnesota has gone 9-6 with the three of them all healthy, including the current three-game winning streak in which Towns has averaged 25.3 points and 10.0 rebounds, Russell 21.7 points and 6.7 assists, and Edwards 18.7 points and 9.0 rebounds.

Towns considers Russell, the ex-Warrior, to be the catalyst of the last surge.

“He’s special. I think there’s no question about it,” the big guy gushed. “I think we all know how special he is offensively. I think what I’m more proud of is the defensive effort. Playing really smart.”

The Timberwolves were without both Towns and Russell when they lost twice in a three-night, two-game stretch at Golden State in January. Edwards averaged 20.0 points in 130-108 and 123-111 losses.

Minnesota’s leading scorer both nights was Malik Beasley with 30 and 25 points. Beasley currently is sidelined by a hamstring injury that has put the rest of his season in jeopardy.

Stephen Curry countered with an average 26.0 points per game in the two wins, making 11 of his 23 3-point attempts.

He had a team-high 27 points when Golden State was shellacked 133-103 at home by Dallas on Tuesday, which snapped a two-game winning streak and sent the Warriors on their way on a four-game trip that also will see them at Houston on Saturday before a two-night stand in New Orleans.

The Warriors begin the trip in 10th place in the West, attempting to hold off the Pelicans for the final spot in the play-in tournament.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr is labeling every remaining contest a playoff game, and hopes his team responds better than it did on Tuesday.

“They came out like it was a playoff game,” he said of the Mavericks, “and we came out like it was an exhibition game. Very disappointing.”

–Field Level Media

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