The San Antonio Spurs have given the rest of the NBA a defensive blueprint for beating the Golden State Warriors.
If the defensively challenged Minnesota Timberwolves can nearly pull it off, the defending champions should expect to see it a lot more down the stretch as they chase history.
Draymond Green had 24 points, nine rebounds and six assists to help the Warriors narrowly avoid their first two-game skid in nearly a year with a 109-104 victory over the Timberwolves on Monday night.
Klay Thompson scored 17 points and hit all five of his 3-pointers, and the Warriors (63-7) overcame a second straight poor shooting night from Stephen Curry. The reigning MVP missed 11 of his 17 shots, including seven of his nine 3-pointers, but still had 19 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds.
After the Spurs aggressively switched on every screen and held Golden State to 79 points in a victory on Saturday, the Timberwolves employed the same strategy and nearly pulled off an upset.
"We got the win, and it proves we can win ugly, or if we have to win by a large margin we can," said Thompson, who went 0 for 9 on 2-point shots.
Karl-Anthony Towns had 24 points and 11 rebounds, while Ricky Rubio added 20 points, 11 assists and four rebounds for the Timberwolves (22-48), who gave the Warriors all they could handle.
The Wolves have struggled mightily on defence since turning things over to their youngest players, but interim coach Sam Mitchell implemented the new strategy to great effect.
"I think San Antonio did a pretty good job and we followed their game plan," Rubio said. "It was different than what we used to do, but I think we came up big."
The last time the Warriors lost two in a row in the regular season was April 5 and 7, when they were starting to turn their eyes to the playoffs. This year, in spite of their record-setting start, they still entered the game just three ahead of the Spurs in the Western Conference.
They are not only chasing the top seed in the West, but are no longer hiding their desire to break the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls' record of 72 wins in a season. The Warriors are currently ahead of that pace.
"As a team, we can't do much better with Klay Thompson and Steph Curry," Mitchell said. "But that team is more than Klay Thompson and Steph Curry ... they have a complete team from 1-15."
Nothing is yet guaranteed for these Warriors, who are getting every team's best shot every night. And Monday was no different.
Minnesota ripped off a 10-0 run in the third quarter to take an 89-81 lead, with Rubio orchestrating the pups Andrew Wiggins (25 points), Towns and Zach LaVine (19 points) up and down the court.
"It's been a tough stretch for us, and it's not going to get any easier," said Green, who closed the game with two tough layups. "It's something we'll fight through. It's not something we haven't been through before, and it's not something we won't go through again, so we'll be fine."