Western Conference race gets tighter as Timberwolves beat Warriors

SAN FRANCISCO — The Warriors were up two and had the ball in their hands with about five seconds separating the shot and game clock Sunday evening.

Their fourth straight win was well within reach.

But Draymond Green turned the ball over and Kyle Anderson fed Karl Anthony Towns who buried a 3 to put the Timberwolves up for good.

On the next possession, Jordan Poole would throw the ball away for Golden State’s fifth turnover of the fourth and the Timberwolves would hold on, beating the Warriors 99-96.

Towns playing in his second game back after a 51-game hiatus, knocked down two timely 3s late in the fourth to usher his team to their third straight win and even the regular-season series at 2-2. That means, if necessary, the tiebreaker would be decided by who has the better conference record. As of Sunday, the Warriors are 25-21 and the Timberwolves are 26-20.

Golden State and Minnesota straddle the line between securing a playoff spot outright and falling into the play-in tournament.

Green called the latter scenario “dangerous” and made the Warriors’ intentions of finishing as a top-six team clear in recent days, but Sunday’s loss doesn’t help their situation.

Sure, the Warriors remain in sixth place, but the gap between them and the seventh-place Timberwolves shrank to a half game.

Gary Payton II received a loud ovation from the home crowd when he checked in with 26 seconds left in the first.

After taking a two-point lead into the locker room at the half, Golden State had been battling to keep pace with the Timberwolves for most of the second half.

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Klay Thompson knocked down a 3 to put the Warriors up 92-91 for their first lead of the fourth quarter with 2:47 left. But Towns later responded by draining a 3 at the top of the key. The lead would change twice more. Stephen Curry’s off-balanced shot at the final horn didn’t fall.

Jordan Poole led the Warriors with 27 points off the bench and had four rebounds. Curry added 20 points, six rebounds and nine assists.

Meanwhile, Naz Reid had the hot hand for the Timberwolves, scoring a team-high 23 points off the bench. Towns scored six of his 14 points in the fourth.

The Warriors will host the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday.

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