Towns leads Timberwolves past floundering Mavericks 112-99
FILE - SAN ANTONIO, TX - OCTOBER 18: Karl-Anthony Towns #32 of the Minnesota Timberwolves handles the ball against the San Antonio Spurs on October 18, 2017 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Karl-Anthony Towns had 31 points and 12 rebounds, Andrew Wiggins added 23 points on 9-for-14 shooting and the Minnesota Timberwolves beat the floundering Dallas Mavericks 112-99 on Saturday night (Sunday, PHL time) for their first four-game winning streak in nearly five years.
Holding Mavericks star Harrison Barnes scoreless in the second half, the Wolves enjoyed a blowout for once after the margin of their previous five victories totaled just 17 points. The last time they won four games in a row was Dec. 7-15, 2012, when Towns was just a junior in high school.
Coming off a career-low two points Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) at New Orleans, when foul trouble against bulwarks DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis limited him to 22 minutes, Towns responded like the Timberwolves needed him to and thought he would. He had seven points and two rebounds during a 13-0 run late in the third quarter that pushed their lead to 25 points.
Barnes finished with 17 points for the Mavericks, who have the worst record in the NBA and their first 1-10 start since the 1993-94 season when they staggered out of the gate at 1-23 and finished 13-69 in coach Quinn Buckner's only year on the job.
With franchise cornerstone Dirk Nowitzki not the same as his younger self, they've been relying heavily on their bounty of point guards. Dennis Smith Jr. had 18 points and Devin Harris (15 points) and J.J. Barea (14 points) provided a few sparks off the bench, but there's just not enough production to be found. The Mavericks entered the game with the third-lowest scoring average in the league.
The Wolves improved to 6-1 with linchpin Jimmy Butler on the floor, having lost both games the tenacious, versatile small forward missed with a virus, but the upside to this one was that they won with minimal impact from their offseason headliner acquisition. Butler averaged 21.3 points over the previous three games, but the player getting the third-most minutes per night in the NBA was able to rest more than usual down the stretch with the Wolves in command from the middle of the first quarter on.
Butler finished with a season-low four points in 34 minutes.
Taj Gibson picked up some slack with 12 points and 10 rebounds, and Jeff Teague had 11 points and 10 assists. The reserves, playing as a five-man unit for long stretches, contributed often, too. Nemanja Bjelica and Tyus Jones each sank a pair of three-pointers in the second quarter. Jamal Crawford used a shake-and-bake move for a 20-foot pull-up jumper he swished for a 90-62 lead that was the largest of the game for the Wolves.
ROUGH ROAD AHEAD
The Mavericks might have to wait a while longer for that next win. Their next 10 games include two matchups each with Oklahoma City and San Antonio and one against Cleveland, and all but one of them are against teams that made the playoffs last season. The vastly improved Timberwolves are the only outlier. They visit Dallas on Nov. 17 (Nov. 18, PHL time).
Mavericks: Nowitzki had seven points on 3-for-8 shooting in 22 minutes. ... Salah Mejri started at center for the first time this season and only the 18th time in 114 career games. The 7'2" Tunisian, who had 13 rebounds and five blocks against the Pelicans, went scoreless in nine minutes of action while picking up three fouls.
Timberwolves: Bjelica is second in the NBA in three-point shooting, behind Oklahoma City's Raymond Felton. He's the only player on the team with at least one make from behind the arc in all nine games this season. ... The Wolves have attempted more free throws than their opponent in all nine games.
Mavericks: Travel to Washington to play the Wizards on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time), their only game in the next six days before hosting the defending Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers next weekend.
Timberwolves: Stay home for the second half of a back-to-back set, hosting the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday night (Monday, PHL time) before a road trip to face the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time).