MINNEAPOLIS (AP) The Minnesota Timberwolves have gobbled up wins against struggling teams, including this one against the uncharacteristically shaken Los Angeles Lakers.
The next streak for Minnesota, closing in on the franchise’s second playoff appearance in 18 years, will provide a much tougher test.
Karl-Anthony Towns scored 16 of 30 points in the fourth quarter to help the Timberwolves beat the Lakers 124-104 Wednesday night for their ninth victory in the last 10 games.
Anthony Edwards had 20 of his 27 points in the second quarter to lead the early push for the Timberwolves, who never trailed their way and stayed within a game and a half of Denver for sixth place in the Western Conference. .
Their next seven opponents are all top-seven in each conference, culminating in a road game on April 1 against the Nuggets.
“We need that now, an under-the-hood check, if you will,” coach Chris Finch said.
Minnesota had a 25-point second-quarter lead reduced to four by the Los Angeles bench in the fourth quarter, but Towns — who had a franchise-record 60 points last game — helped the Timberwolves stabilize. Patrick Beverley threw 18 points and plenty of pep.
“We made the game competitive. We can’t do that. We can’t play with our food there,” said Towns, who had 13 of Minnesota’s 51 rebounds.
LeBron James, playing through knee pain, had just 19 points on 8-for-21 shooting to lead the Lakers. He totaled 111 points in the previous three games. The Lakers, who have had Anthony Davis sidelined with a foot injury in the last 11 games, have lost 16 of their last 21 games.
“It’s easy to be comfortable when you win. I’ve never been that guy. It’s about: ‘How comfortable can you be when things get uncomfortable?’ I’m okay with that too,” James said. “It’s testing my patience more than any season in recent years, just because of the way we’re playing.”
Carmelo Anthony had 16 points for the Lakers, who fell 11 games below .500 at 29-40. James hasn’t played on a team this far below even since his rookie year, when Cleveland finished the 2003-04 season at 35-47.
According to ESPN, it’s also the first time in James’ career that his team has trailed by 25 points or more in three straight games. The Lakers are just one game ahead of 10th-place New Orleans, precariously close to the cup for the play-in tournament.
When Russell Westbrook airballed a 3-pointer with 3:58 left and a 111-94 deficit, Towns headed to the baseline where the ball bounced and, looking at the crowd, put his hand against his forehead as he scoffed. pretends to try to find it.
“When you are up, everything is fine. When you’re down, they’ll kick you,” Lakers goaltender Wayne Ellington said. “So right now we’re being kicked.”
The Timberwolves took a 67-46 advantage in the locker room at halftime, but the Lakers made a play of it for a while. Westbrook froze his call hand in place while laying down after a 3-pointer that took the Lakers to 73-64 with 6:03 left in the third quarter.
DJ Augustin drained a 3 at the third quarter buzzer and went down in a layup early in the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 89-85. Almost every time the Lakers hit a big shot, they followed with a defensive miss.
BACK AND FORTH
The Minnesota bench has been talking about Westbrook all night.
“Nobody there has done anything in this league that makes me roll my eyes like, ‘Oh, they’re talking to me. Let me answer,'” Westbrook said. They are good. They won a game. Happy for them. Move on to the next one.”
Said Finch: “I like the fact that we had confidence, the fact that we played with a lot of emotion. We also have to realize that we have to mature a bit and act like we’ve been there before.
Lakers: Dwight Howard returned to the starting XI after missing the last game for family reasons. He collected just two points in 16 minutes. … The Lakers went 0 for 10 in the first quarter and 2 for 21 from 3-point range in the first half.
Timberwolves: It was their 11th win of the season by more than 20 points, one shy of the franchise record set in 2013-14. … Jayden McDaniels, who sprained his left ankle in the previous game, will miss at least two weeks before re-evaluation … With McDaniels and Naz Reid (back spasms) out, Nathan Knight had four points and eight rebounds in 14 minutes .
Lakers: At Toronto Friday night.
Timberwolves: Host Milwaukee on Saturday.
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