The Golden State Warriors won their 50th game of the season Monday night and clinched the sixth seed in the upcoming Western Conference playoffs. However, the accomplishments were overshadowed by the news earlier in the day that center Andrew Bogut will be sidelined indefinitely with a fractured rib.
Stephen Curry had 32 points and 15 assists, David Lee had 25 points and nine rebounds and Draymond Green scored a career-high 20 points to lift the Warriors to a 130-120 come-from-behind victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves. It was Golden State’s first 50-win season in exactly 20 seasons.
“Just awesome,” said Warriors coach Mark Jackson. “50 wins. With all the adversity that we had all season long, all the trials, all the injuries, all the excuses that we could have taken, all the setbacks that we own, it says a lot about this basketball team.”
While the Warriors are locked into the sixth position, the playoff opponent is still to be determined. The Clippers are currently in third, but are only 1.5 games behind the Thunder. If the Clippers win their final two games (Denver/Portland) and Oklahoma City loses their game (Detroit), Los Angeles will be the two seed. If that happens, Golden State will open in Oklahoma City against Kevin Durant and company.
One thing is for sure, the Warriors will head into the playoffs shorthanded. The team announced before the game that Bogut fractured his rib in Sunday’s thrilling defeat to Portland. The injury occurred in the final minute of regulation when Bogut caught an elbow in the upper body from LaMarcus Aldridge. X-rays taken after the game revealed the fracture and the diagnosis was confirmed by the team’s medical staff today.
According to Antonio Gonzalez of the Associated Press, Bogut first injured his rib when he was elbowed by Denver’s Kenneth Faried last Thursday. Aldridge's elbow did the rest of the damage. Bogut would risk a punctured lung if he tried to play through the injury.
Bogut was instrumental in the Warriors becoming one of the elite defensive teams in the league. Coming into the game, Golden State was ranked third in both opponent field goal percentage and defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions). Without Bogut (and Andre Iguodala), the Warriors allowed 42 points in the first quarter Monday to Minnesota.
The Timberwolves jumped out to a 19-4 lead and led 42-28 after the first 12 minutes. Minnesota shot 56.5 percent and made 5 of 6 3-pointers. Kevin Love led the charge with 22 points and Ricky Rubio chipped in with 10. Golden State shot only 31 percent. If not for Curry’s 15 points, the Warriors might have no shot at a comeback in the final home game of the season.
Minnesota pushed the lead to 19 early in the second quarter before the Warriors finally showed why they are playoff-bound and the Timberwolves are not. Led by their defense and outside shooting, Golden State went on a 23-4 run to tie the game at 55. Although Minnesota regained a two-point lead at halftime, all the momentum was going the Warriors way.
The Warriors shot 52 percent in the second quarter and made 6 of 12 3-pointers. The Timberwolves shot 47.4 percent and committed six turnovers for 13 Golden State points. Curry and Green combined for 14 points and two steals. After a monstrous first quarter, Love was held to only four points.
Golden State finally got over the hump in the third quarter when they went on a 12-1 run that turned a six-point deficit into a five-point lead with 3:42 left. The Warriors maintained that advantage entering the fourth quarter.
The Timberwolves managed to cut the lead to two on two different occasions, but the Warriors responded each time. First, it was Lee with four straight points. Then, with just over five minutes left, Green nailed a 3-pointer and Thompson made a turnaround jumper. Curry sealed the game late with a layup and a 3-pointer.
Curry actually did not score for a 14-minute span in the second half. However, Lee and the rest of the Warriors more than picked up the slack. Lee scored 17 points on 8 of 8 shooting after halftime. Thompson had 15 points and Green added 14 points and six rebounds. Curry did have eight assists.
Love finished with 40 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists. Corey Brewer scored 22 points and Rubio had 15 points and eight assists. The Timberwolves shot 53 percent for the game, but committed 21 costly turnovers for 32 Golden State points. Love and Rubio combined for 13 turnovers.
Golden State has a road game on Wednesday in Denver remaining. With playoff positioning determined, the Warriors will take a couple of days to enjoy the journey so far and rest up for the postseason.
“50 is a special number,” said Jackson. “Credit to those players. It’s a tied together group that I’m very proud of them. You don’t take 50 for granted. Some of them never hit 50. I don’t want to be prophetic, but some of them, there’s a chance they won’t hit it ever again. So while you are here, enjoy it. It should be acknowledged and celebrated.”