‘Non-Steph minutes’ bite Warriors once again vs. Timberwolves

‘Non-Steph minutes’ bite Warriors once again vs. Timberwolves originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

With 12 games remaining to chase their goals, the only mollification the Warriors have is that they won’t see a better team than the one that came from behind to take their money on Sunday.

And the Minnesota Timberwolves didn’t turn bully until the Warriors were in their most vulnerable position this season and, to be fair, one they have faced since 2019.

Whenever Stephen Curry is off the floor.

With Curry sitting to begin the fourth quarter, the Timberwolves needed only 47 seconds to grab their first lead since the opening minutes. They never again trailed, shoving the Warriors to a 114-110 loss in Minneapolis that pushes them perilously close to falling from NBA play-in tournament position.

Curry played precisely 29 minutes, 51 seconds. Fewer than Draymond Green, Jonathan Kuminga or Klay Thompson, and only 86 seconds more than rookie backup center Trayce Jackson-Davis.

“We’re trying to keep him around 30,” coach Steve Kerr told reporters at Target Center in Minneapolis. “Trying to get him as much rest as we can. We’ve played a lot of minutes, played him 35 two days ago. So, long as we were hanging in there, we wanted to limit the minutes a little bit – not limit them but not overplay him.”

When Minnesota opened the fourth quarter with a 12-5 run to take a four-point lead with 8:56 remaining, Kerr called a timeout. It appeared that might be the time he would summon Curry as a response.


“We’ve got Chris Paul out there,” Kerr said. “We’ve got Klay. We’ve got Draymond. We’ve got great players out there. We can’t expect to just ride Steph game after game after game.”

“You can’t expect to ride Steph game after game after game … We’ve put the burden of this franchise on his shoulders for 15 years.”

Kerr doesn’t believe Steph’s extra rest was the difference in tonight’s loss

— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) March 25, 2024

Curry sat for another two minutes and two seconds, during which Golden State’s deficit increased from four to eight points.

“If you want to say that him playing 30 minutes instead of 32 is a difference in the win and a loss, I totally disagree with that,” Kerr said in defense of his decision. “We’re trying to we’re trying to win the game. We’re trying to keep him fresh, too.”

This was a game in which two minutes in the fourth quarter mattered. The difference in being down eight with less than seven minutes remaining against the NBA’s No. 1 defense was four points – enough for Minnesota to completely seize momentum.

Curry finished with a game-high 31 points on 9-of-21 shooting from the field, including 5 of 11 from beyond the arc. Five other Warriors scored in double digits, led by 16 points from Thompson.

But Curry, the franchise superstar, seemed open to playing more. He expressed surprise that he did not get a chance to go at the Timberwolves sooner in the fourth quarter.

“A little bit,” Curry said. “Knowing that they were just going on a run, the lead was kind of whittling away. I played the whole fourth quarter against Indiana. Didn’t work out. This didn’t work out. So, we’ve got to find somewhere in the middle.”

Kerr, glancing at the upcoming schedule, seems committed to keeping a close eye on Curry’s minutes.

“These last few weeks have been really tough on him,” Kerr said. “We’ve put the burden of this franchise on his shoulders for 15 years. We can’t expect him to play 35 minutes. We have five games in seven days on this road trip.”

The addition of Paul last summer was made, theoretically, to alleviate the tendency of Golden State’s offense going dormant whenever Curry has a few minutes to catch his breath. It has, for the most part, been that way since the 2018-19 NBA season.

That was when the Warriors had master scorer Kevin Durant and a productive DeMarcus Cousins on the roster. That was when Thompson was in his prime, and when Shaun Livingston could come off the bench, hunt a favorable matchup and get buckets in isolation.

Those days are deep in the past. These Warriors are nothing like those Warriors.

Kerr’s notion to curtail Curry’s minutes is admirable. The coach wants to prolong the prime of a man who is in excellent condition but turned 36 years old this month.

But even with Paul on the roster, and the team’s oft-referenced depth, the “non-Steph minutes” remain an issue that too often ruins the Warriors.

With the remaining 12 games all against lesser teams than Minnesota, there should be nights when the Warriors can prevail without Curry going beyond 30 minutes. This simply was not one of them.

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