The Warriors' recent slew of losses to sub-.500 teams continued on Friday night as they fell to the Timberwolves in Minnesota 131-130 in overtime.
While the Dubs can certainly be criticized for allowing the middling 'Wolves back into the game, being outscored 32-18 in the third quarter, what happened during crunch time is definitely all on the officials.
After the Timberwolves came roaring back in the third, they took the lead early in the fourth and held it all the way up until Draymond Green tied the score on a free throw with 21.8 seconds remaining in regulation. The score remained at 115-115, and the teams headed to overtime. Minnesota controlled most of the overtime frame, but Stephen Curry had other plans. With 4.4 seconds remaining in the overtime period, the Wolves up 130-127, Kevin Durant was fouled–seemingly in the act of shooting a three-pointer, which he made–and wasn't granted a trip to the line to complete the four-point play. The Warriors' bench was furious. However, on the subsequent play, Curry hit a difficult three-point shot, tying the game at 130-130 with only 0.5 seconds left in overtime.
This is where the Warriors' real problem with the officiating begins. 0.5 seconds is hardly enough time to catch and shoot, let alone convert a difficult alley-oop or layup. Each team was likely preparing to head to a second overtime period. On the in-bounds play, Minnesota forward Anthony Tolliver tried to throw a lob into center Karl-Anthony Towns, but the pass sailed about 10 feet over his head. Game over... right? Wrong.
Kevin Durant, who had just been ironically hosed on the previous foul call, was whistled for the foul, sending Towns to the line to shoot two free throws. The former Kentucky Wildcat star stepped to the line, made the first, and missed the second foul shot. The remaining few tenths of a second evaporated and the game was over: Timberwolves 131, Golden State 130.
After the game, many of the Warriors didn't hide their feelings regarding the officiating. ESPN caught up with coach Steve Kerr after the game and asked his thoughts on the referees' call on the Durant three-point shot:
"'Did I think it was before the shot?' Kerr said. 'I just watched the replay. He caught and he shot -- it's a four-point play. I mean, I don't know what else to say. Kind of mind-boggling. You catch and you go up for a shot, and you get fouled in any league -- any league -- that's a good bucket and a free throw. Any league, not just the NBA.'"
Curry took a somewhat different approach to answering questions about the refs, shouldering some of the blame for being in the position they were in, while maintaining that the two calls in question had been blown:
"'If that's the case that's indicative of the entire game,' Curry said. 'And not officiating the game itself and letting emotions get in the way or whatever kind of agenda you had coming in. At the end of the day it's one of 82, we're not going to get overblown that much. We should have been way ahead in the second half by playing better. But again, let the play decide, and that's just unfortunate.'"
The two-time NBA MVP couldn't help but take one last pasting shot at the officials, themselves, calling referee Marat Kogut "the MVP of tonight."
The loss to the Timberwolves (34-41) means that out of their last six losses the Dubs have dropped four to teams with losing records. That is highly unlike the Golden State team fans have enjoyed year in and year out. Once again, this can be a sign of the 82-game grind of a season taking its toll on the defending champs. Curry, Durant, Thompson, and Green may be ready to flip the switch to "playoff mode." We've seen this with teams who perennially make and have deep runs into the playoffs. The only thing the Bay's team needs to worry about is making sure their stars are healthy, heading into the fast-approaching 2019 postseason.