Wiggins’ 21 points lead Wolves over Wizards, 131-109
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Minnesota Timberwolves had no problem in their first game without star center Karl-Anthony Towns.
Andrew Wiggins scored 21 points, Robert Covington and Jarrett Culver each added 20 and the Timberwolves cruised to a 131-109 victory over the Washington Wizards on Saturday night.
Towns was serving the first of a two-game suspension for fighting with Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid on Wednesday. In his first four games, Towns was among the league leaders in scoring and rebounds.
“We knew we were missing Kat,” Wiggins said. “Kat’s not somebody you can replace, so everyone had to step up, and that’s what everyone did.
“You’ve just got to remember, we play a certain way. You don’t want to get out of character.”
Minnesota, which improved to 4-1 for the first time since 2012-13, had six players in double figures.
Bradley Beal scored 30 points for Washington (1-4). The Wizards began the 2018-19 season with seven losses in eight games.
“We were in a fog,” coach Scott Brooks said. “There’s no excuses. It’s on me.”
Minnesota led throughout the game. The Wolves were already ahead by 10 with 3 ½ minutes gone in the second quarter and increased their lead steadily.
Wiggins’ 3-pointer at the buzzer to end the third quarter extended the lead to 106-72.
Gorgui Dieng, who started in place of Towns, scored 18 points. Jeff Teague had 15 points and 13 assists, and Jake Layman added 14 points.
Dieng had played just six minutes all season, not getting to play in three of the first four games.
“Even though he wasn’t playing this year, he stayed ready, he stayed in place,” Wiggins said. “And whenever he got his chance, he maximized it.”
After losing 159-158 to Houston on Wednesday, the Wizards completely fell apart against the Timberwolves.
Minnesota won the last meeting between the teams on March 9, and this game broke a pattern of alternating wins and losses over 20 meetings that began March 9, 2009.
Timberwolves: Coach Ryan Saunders, who was an assistant coach in Washington under his late father, Flip, keeps a residence in Washington. “This is almost like a second home to me,” Saunders said. “It was fun to be here with the Nationals, and that excitement. I can’t claim the Nationals. I’ve always been a Twins fan. They’re my second favorite team.”
Wizards: F Rui Hachimura, who had 23 points in just his fourth professional game, was held to four. He missed nine of his 11 field goals.
HARD DECISIONS FOR SAUNDERS
Dieng has played each of his seven seasons with Minnesota, and Saunders wants him to earn his playing time.
“I want hard decisions when it comes to playing guys,” Saunders said. “That means guys are playing well and guys are buying in. But as we can see tonight, there’s roles that we have on this team. And we want to make sure we put the best groups out there together. And then we also can keep guys in roles, too.”
POINT GUARD WITHOUT TOWNS
Teague acknowledged that it was a major adjustment to play without Towns.
“Karl is one of those talents where you’ve got to make a point to get him the ball,” Teague said. “He has the ability to do so many things. When he’s out, it’s a little different.”
Hachimura entered the game averaging 18 points in his first four Brooks knew he was due for a slump.
“You have one bad game,” Brooks said. “Let’s not make it two. If it’s two, let’s not make it three.”
By necessity, Beal must serve as a mentor to Hachimura.
“He’ll learn that as he continues to play, the game will slow down for him,” Beal said. “Right now it’s probably 100 mph.”
Timberwolves: Host Milwaukee on Monday.
Wizards: Host Detroit on Monday
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