Karl-Anthony Towns drained a free throw with five-tenths of a second remaining to seal a 131-130 overtime victory over Golden State on Friday that left the defending NBA champion Warriors fuming over the officiating and their own miscues.
Towns went to the line after Warriors star Kevin Durant was whistled for a fifth foul on an inbounds play. Durant was called for holding Towns near the basket, even though the pass appeared out of reach of both players.
Towns made the first of two free throws and missed the second as time expired.
The defeat left the Warriors neck-and-neck atop the Western Conference with the Denver Nuggets, who beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 115-105 to improve to 51-24.
The final foul on Durant was just one of the calls that irked the Warriors.
Seconds earlier, Golden State inbounded the ball to Durant who put up a three pointer that dropped through the net as a foul was called.
But officials waived off the basket saying the foul had occurred before Durant got the shot off. “Mind boggling,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who thought it should have been a four-point play.
“You catch the ball, you go up for a shot, you get fouled – in any league that’s a good bucket and a free throw.”
But Kerr conceded the Warriors’ problems started earlier as their 68-54 halftime lead evaporated in a sluggish, sloppy third quarter. The Warriors were outscored 32-18 in the period, making just five of 20 shots from the field and committing eight turnovers with zero assists.
They needed a Stephen Curry three-pointer and a free throw by Draymond Green to knot the score at 115-115 and force overtime, and were down 128-119 with 1:41 remaining in the extra session.
Curry, who finished with 37 points, produced three three-pointers in an 11-2 scoring run for the Warriors, knotting the score at 130-130 with eight-tenths of a second left.
“We went into halftime with 20 assists, three turnovers, broke the game open late in the second quarter, were rolling along,” Kerr said. “Third quarter was a disaster. We stopped playing.
“I give Minnesota a lot of credit. They competed, got back in the game. We stepped on our own toes in that quarter.
“I’m disappointed with the way we lost control of the game and disappointed with the officiating at the end,” Kerr said.
Minnesota forward Andrew Wiggins scored 24 points to lead eight Timberwolves players in double figures. Josh Okogie added 21.
Curry also acknowledged the Warriors let the game slip in the third quarter, but he couldn’t resist a dig at the late calls he felt “sabotaged” the Warriors’ effort.
“KD, four-point play which puts pressure on them with four seconds left to have to get a bucket,” he said. “And end of the game – nobody wants to see a game end like that with a crazy pass that had no chance of being caught and a soft foul that should never have been called to decide the game like that.”
Irving seals Celtics win
In the East, Boston’s Kyrie Irving made the go-ahead layup with five-tenths of a second remaining to give the Celtics a 114-112 victory over Indiana and what could be a key playoff positioning advantage over the Pacers.
The teams occupy fourth and fifth place in the East with matching 45-31 records, but Boston gained the upper hand as they took a 2-1 lead in the regular-season series.
The teams will play one more time before the playoffs as the battle for post-season position comes down to the wire.
Pacers forward Thaddeus Young polished off an alley-oop layup to knot the score at 112-112 but missed a layup on the next possession.
Young then came up with a steal, but Boston produced a defensive stop and Irving edged past Wesley Matthews and beat Young on the way to converting the game-winner.
“Clearly it wasn’t what we drew up, but it went in,” said Irving, who scored 20 of his 30 points in the second half.
Elsewhere, the playoff-bound Portland Trail Blazers shook off their injury concerns to beat the Hawks 118-98 in Atlanta.