Warriors Lose to Timberwolves, Dealing a Blow to Record Quest


Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors lost Tuesday night and now must win their last four games to break the 1995-96 Bulls’ record.

OAKLAND, Calif. — The game was just minutes old when Coach Steve Kerr sensed that it was beginning to slip away from the Golden State Warriors. They had played so well through the first six minutes of the first quarter against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday night, but then Kerr observed some of the same problems that have hindered his team in recent weeks.

“We decided to turn it into a show,” he said, “and we started turning the ball over like crazy.”

The Warriors, the most dazzling show in pro sports, have spent the season captivating fans and demoralizing opponents. But unlike much of the basketball-watching world, Kerr tends to think of the word show — at least as far as it pertains to his team — as a pejorative term. Too often, he said, his players seek the spectacular rather than the simple. He would prefer that his team make the basic pass, the hard cut, the right play.

So many of those fundamentals evaporated during the Warriors’ 124-117 overtime loss to the Timberwolves at Oracle Arena. After months of frenzied hype that has accompanied their well-chronicled pursuit of the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls for the best regular-season record in N.B.A. history, the Warriors suddenly looked flawed, human and altogether beatable.

“It was a pretty bad night all around,” Kerr said.

The Warriors (69-9) have four games remaining in the regular season, starting Thursday night when they host the San Antonio Spurs. Golden State must win all four — two against the Spurs, two against the Memphis Grizzlies — to finish 73-9, which would eclipse the Bulls’ old mark of 72-10. There is no margin for error, not anymore.

Until the Boston Celtics defeated them here last Friday, the Warriors had not lost a regular-season game at home since January 2015 — a stretch that included 54 straight victories here. But their loss Tuesday was their second in five days, a harsh dose of reality as the playoffs near.

“We’re not invincible,” Stephen Curry said, adding, “Just because we show up at Oracle Arena doesn’t mean we’re guaranteed to win.”

Simply showing up has often been enough for the Warriors, a supremely talented team that can overcome bouts with carelessness. But that was not the case against the Timberwolves, who played their finest game of the season. Shabazz Muhammad scored 35 points off the bench, and Karl-Anthony Towns collected 20 points and 12 rebounds.

The Warriors, meanwhile, committed 24 turnovers and fumbled away a 17-point lead in the third quarter. Curry labored through another tough night, finishing with 21 points and 15 assists while shooting just 7 of 25 from the field. The Timberwolves were far more aggressive, attempting 36 free throws. The Warriors were just 7 of 8 from the foul line.

“They were the aggressors,” Kerr said. “They attacked us.”

The Warriors’ flagging pursuit of the Bulls’ record is dovetailing with their suddenly haphazard preparation for the postseason. Everyone associated with the team agrees that the record would be a nice piece of history to add to the organizational mantle, but there is a renewed urgency to regain their collective focus as they tiptoe toward the playoffs.

Defending their championship is the ultimate goal, and the Warriors are not playing very good basketball right now. Draymond Green said the team was combating a new foe: boredom.

“You’re talking 82 games,” Green said. “You get bored with that after a while. And that’s no excuse. I’m always going to give it to you all real, and that’s as real as I can be. It’s kind of at a point where you’re ready for the regular season to be over.”

The concern for Kerr is his team’s steady accumulation of bad habits — and there are no guarantees that the Warriors will magically find their footing once the playoffs start. The Warriors have spent weeks playing amid the public glare of their hunt for 73 wins, and perhaps, Kerr said, all that attention has distracted them.

“This doesn’t surprise me,” Kerr said. “I think it’s very easy to get lost in all this stuff. We haven’t been very dialed in of late. The good news is, I think we’re perfectly capable of getting locked in and playing much better, and we should. Our eyes should be a little more open to the danger and the possibility that’s out there when you mess around with the game.”