Kevin Durant Triple-Doubles, Warriors Beat Timberwolves with Jimmy Butler Out

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistJanuary 26, 2018

Golden State Warriors' Kevin Durant, right, celebrates a score as Minnesota Timberwolves' Nemanja Bjelica reacts during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Ben Margot/Associated Press

The Golden State Warriors are hitting their stride.

The defending champions scored in triple figures for the 15th straight game Thursday in a 126-113 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves at Oracle Arena, extending their record to 6-1 in their last seven.

The usual suspects led the way, as Kevin Durant (triple-double with 28 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds), Stephen Curry (25 points, nine assists, five rebounds and three steals) and Klay Thompson (25 points and five boards) provided too much firepower for a short-handed Timberwolves squad.

Minnesota announced it was without All-Star Jimmy Butler because of a sore right knee. Fellow All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns did what he could with a double-double consisting of 31 points and 11 rebounds, but it wasn't enough to counter Golden State's relentlessness.

Butler's absence was critical, considering he's the defensive leader and frequently guards the opponent's best perimeter and wing players. The three-time member of an All-Defensive team likely would've defended Durant, Curry and Thompson at points during Thursday's contest.

The Warriors lead the league in offensive rating, per NBA.com, and are nearly impossible to deal with even when their opponent's at full strength. Minnesota quickly discovered that when Golden State poured in 74 points in the first half.

Curry danced through the defense and unleashed threes to set the tone, while Durant took on a facilitator role whenever Minnesota shifted its attention toward the guard. Everyone Minnesota threw Durant's way came up short, as the reigning NBA Finals MVP shot over smaller defenders with six three-pointers, attacked the lane when pressed and consistently found his teammates.

As a result, Golden State drilled a head-turning 56.8 percent of its three-point attempts (21-of-37), taking advantage of the slightest spaces.

Curry and Durant did the heavy lifting in the early going but passed the hot hand to Thompson, who connected on four of his seven triples in the third quarter.

It wasn't all shooting, though, as Golden State used its athleticism and small-ball attack to push the pace in transition and beat the Minnesota frontcourt to the other end. That prevented the visitors from setting their defense and created a number of easy looks at the rim and for shooters filling the lanes.

According to Nick Friedell of ESPN.com, the Warriors enjoyed a 39-8 advantage in first-half fast-break points.

Despite the gaudy numbers, it still came down to Durant and Curry. Thompson and Draymond Green (nine points and eight boards) anchored the lineup at the start of the fourth quarter, but Minnesota climbed within seven and had momentum because the Warriors scored just four points in the frame's first five minutes.

The Warriors scored on three straight possessions after Curry and Durant re-entered, and they pushed the lead back to double digits and never looked back.

It's a testament to the Timberwolves' resiliency that they remained within striking distance for much of the contest while Golden State's offense was clicking. While the Durant and Curry twosome is an NBA Jam dream, the visitors' own pairing of Towns and Jeff Teague proved critical early with 31 combined first-half points to prevent a blowout.

Towns was particularly impressive throughout, taking advantage on the blocks when Golden State had more athletic playmakers in and demonstrating his versatility by extending his offensive game outside when Zaza Pachulia defended him.

It wasn't just Towns, as the Timberwolves scored at will for extended stretches and received double figures from all five starters. Taj Gibson (12 points and 10 rebounds) also took advantage of smaller defenders at times, while Jamal Crawford (21 points and five assists) provided a spark when the Timberwolves were attempting to hang around in the fourth.

It wasn't enough against Golden State, but it may be Saturday when the Timberwolves return home to face the Brooklyn Nets. The Warriors will conclude a three-game homestand on the same day against the Boston Celtics.

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