SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — When the NBA created the In-Season Tournament as a way to inject playoff-level intensity into regular-season games, the scuffle between the Golden State Warriors and the Minnesota Timberwolves that resulted in three early ejections on Tuesday night may not have been what the league had in mind.
With the game still scoreless and not yet two minutes old, Golden State’s Draymond Green was ejected after putting Minnesota’s Rudy Gobert in a headlock. Warriors guard Klay Thompson and Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels, who got into a shoving match that resulted in Thompson’s jersey being ripped, were also tossed.
Once the dust settled, Karl-Anthony Towns scored 33 points, sending Minnesota to a 104-101 tournament victory over Golden State. The Wolves have won seven straight games for their longest win streak since 2004.
“We just found a way to win ugly in a game that was pretty ugly,” Minnesota coach Chris Finch said. “All credit to (the Warriors), those guys, they were super physical and took us out of our rhythm. But we found a way to win it and showed some toughness mentally.”
The rematch of the Wolves’ 116-110 win at the Chase Center on Sunday was not lacking in intensity as the lead changed hands several times in the fourth quarter, until Towns gave Minnesota the lead for good with a 3-pointer with 1:07 remaining.
Towns also grabbed 11 boards, and Gobert had 13. Reigning Western Conference player of the week Anthony Edwards scored 20 points.
“I just saw some moments to make some shots. I’m glad I did,” Towns said. “My teammates put me in great positions. Mike (Conley) finished the game out. It was just a team win, a great win. (Edwards) made some big shots when we needed him, Rudy got some big rebounds and we could keep going down the list.”
Golden State was without leading scorer Stephen Curry, who was ruled out with right knee soreness. Coach Steve Kerr said an MRI revealed “nothing alarming,” and the star guard is considered day to day.
With Curry sidelined, Golden State got a different look on the floor, something Kerr said could help them find an offensive spark. Rookie Brandin Podziemski and Dario Saric led the charge, but Golden State’s losing streak reached four.
Podziemski played 39 minutes, scoring a career-high 23 points with seven boards off the bench and hitting three 3-pointers, including a buzzer-beater to end the third quarter. Saric got his second start with Golden State and added 21 on 6 of 15 shooting.
Chris Paul, who drew the start after coming off the bench in nine straight games, had 15 points with five rebounds and four assists.
“We don’t have some regular rookies, you know what I mean,” Paul said of Podziemski’s performance. “We’ve got some rooks who pay attention, know what they’re doing. To be on a team like this, this early in the season, valuable minutes in big games, it’s only going to be good in the long haul.”
Timberwolves: At Phoenix on Wednesday night.