26 Points and 22 Candles for Towns
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Karl-Anthony Towns had 26 points and 16 rebounds on his 22nd birthday, and the Minnesota Timberwolves stopped a 12-game losing streak to the San Antonio Spurs with a 98-86 victory on Wednesday night.
Jeff Teague pitched in 16 points and six assists, and Nemanja Bjelica added 11 points off the bench as the Timberwolves put together one of their most complete performances with their fewest points allowed this season.
LaMarcus Aldridge fell off from his 32-point game the night before, finishing with a quiet 15 points and 10 rebounds. The Wolves used a 13-3 fast-break scoring advantage to stave off the Spurs despite a minimal contribution from stars Andrew Wiggins (11 points) and Jimmy Butler, who shot a combined 6 for 24 from the floor.
With stars Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker yet to play this season, both because of quadriceps injuries, and the Spurs on the second half of a back-to-back set of road games, this was a prime opportunity for the Wolves to stop the slide. Their body language suggested a determination to assert themselves in this long-lopsided series, displayed with a wince of disappointment or a look of agitation after a basket by the Spurs they felt could have been prevented.
The 107-99 loss to the Spurs in the opener served as a reminder of the pecking order in the powerful Western Conference, no matter how many enhancements the Wolves have made since their last win against coach Gregg Popovich's squad on April 8, 2014, when Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio were their top two players.
The Spurs in that month-ago season opener were the only previous opponent to hold Minnesota under 100 points this season, and the Wolves got off to a wobbly 7-for-26 shooting start before they caught fire.
They knocked down 12 straight shots at one stretch, on their way to outscoring the Spurs 39-19 in the second period. Teague turned a steal into a 3-pointer for a 51-41 lead, their first double-digit edge of the game, and finished the first half with a runner at the buzzer that rolled off the front rim and in to make it 57-43.
The Spurs never came closer than five points after the 4½-minute mark of the second quarter. Towns started the fourth period with a 3-pointer for a 78-65 advantage, and he sank another one from the top of the key with 4:17 remaining to push the lead back to double digits at 89-78.
This was the eighth time in 14 games that Towns totaled at least 20 points and 10 rebounds. Pau Gasol had trouble keeping him away from the basket, though the veteran finished with an efficient 13 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
Towns is in the top 10 in almost every statistical category in NBA history compiled prior to the player's 22nd birthday. He ranked eighth in points, third in rebounds and second in double-doubles (124), trailing only Dwight Howard (169).
Spurs: Rudy Gay shot just 3 for 8 off the bench for seven points.
Timberwolves: Backup center Gorgui Dieng missed his third straight game with a sprained right index finger. Cole Aldrich was available for post duty after a sprained left ankle left him unfit to play in the previous two games, but he has only logged 9 minutes all season.
Timberwolves: Play at Dallas on Friday night. They beat the Mavericks 112-99 at home earlier this month.