OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Minnesota Timberwolves and Golden State Warriors meet as division leaders for the second time Thursday night when the two 30-game winners clash in a nationally televised duel of Western Conference challengers.
Half the conference's contingent of 12 All-Stars will be on display when the Northwest Division frontrunner challenges the defending NBA champion from the Pacific Division for the first time since Nov. 8, when the Warriors prevailed 125-101 at home without Kevin Durant.
The Warriors entered that game 8-3 and in first place in the Pacific. The Timberwolves were 7-3 and atop the Northwest.
Remarkably, not only was that the first time in the 30-year history of the Timberwolves organization that the clubs both led their respective divisions when they squared off, but it also was the third time they'd met when each had a winning record.
The Warriors and Timberwolves have squared off 107 times, with Golden State winning 18 of the last 21 and holding a 63-44 all-time advantage.
The Timberwolves have moved firmly atop the Northwest this season by winning seven of their last 10 games. They were beaten 123-114 at Portland on Wednesday night on the front half of a back-to-back.
They were rewarded for their fast start with two All-Stars: Karl-Anthony Towns and Jimmy Butler. Towns had 16 points and nine rebounds in Wednesday's loss at Portland, while Butler sat out a third straight game with a sore right knee.
"I think our record speaks that we're on the right track," Towns said. "We're doing a great job right now finding ways to win games. That's the most important thing.
"I don't really feel like I'm an All-Star. I feel like my team is an All-Star."
The Warriors and Timberwolves have never met in the NBA postseason. Heck, they've never even been in the same postseason.
Minnesota hasn't made the playoffs since 2004, when it reached the postseason for the eighth straight season. That happened to coincide with a 12-year Warriors drought, which ended in 2007.
Things obviously have changed for Golden State, which has won two of the last three championships. It got four All-Stars for a record second straight year, with Stephen Curry and Durant selected as starters, and Draymond Green and Klay Thompson as reserves.
"It's amazing to have four All-Stars two years in a row," Warriors coach Steve Kerr insisted. "We are obviously really lucky to have these guys all together at once on one roster. What I love is that they are so unselfish, and they play together so well. That's why they are All-Stars."
The Warriors will enter Thursday's showdown having won five of their last six games, including a 123-112 triumph over the New York Knicks on Tuesday night to open a three-game homestand.
Curry led the win over New York with 32 points. It left him two points shy of becoming the fifth player in Warriors history to reach the career 14,000-point milestone.