MINNEAPOLIS — Karl-Anthony Towns had 36 points and 15 rebounds, and the Minnesota Timberwolves used a late run to hold off the short-handed Portland Trail Blazers 135-121 Saturday night for their fourth straight win.
The Timberwolves are averaging 133.3 points per game in the stretch and trail Denver by two games for the sixth spot in the Western Conference.
Jaylen Nowell scored 22 points off the bench and D’Angelo Russell added 14 points and a career-high 15 assists as six Minnesota players finished in double-figure scoring. On the second night of a back-to-back, the Timberwolves shot a season-best 56.5%.
Towns shot 13 for 17 from the field, missing all four 3-point tries, and was 10 of 11 from the free-throw line.
“They didn’t have a matchup for him. He kept going strong to the hoop, he didn’t settle at all. He was huge,” coach Chris Finch said.
Anfernee Simons had 38 points, including a career-high tying nine 3-pointers, for the Trail Blazers, who’ve lost four straight. Rookie Brandon Williams scored a career-high 21 points off the bench as Portland also had six players in double figures. Trendon Watford, also a first-year player, had 12 points and 14 rebounds off the bench for his first double-double.
This contest was an improvement because Portland’s previous three losses were by at least 30 points, and it failed to top 95 points in those games.
“We took a step in the right direction tonight. A lot better effort,” Simons said.
The depleted Trail Blazers had just eight players in uniform. Josh Hart, who is averaging 17.5 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists in six games since being acquired by the Trail Blazers on Feb. 8 was given the night off for load management; Eli Hughes and Greg Brown both missed the game with a non-COVID illness. Williams played after leaving Wednesday’s game with a hip pointer.
“We fought extremely hard all game and I was proud of every single player who played. … Nobody tried to play outside themselves,” coach Chauncey Billups said.
Minnesota led by 10 early in the fourth quarter before three straight Portland 3s got the Trail Blazers to 111-110.
Up 120-118, Nowell had a three-point play, Towns and Russell each scored four points for a 131-118 lead with 2:23 left.
“I knew I needed to be more aggressive. I knew I had to take more shots, get to the rim, make the right plays and we were able to come out with this win,” said Nowell, who scored 19 of his points in the second half.
KUDOS FOR KEON
Keon Johnson, also a rookie, scored 15 points and had five assists in 29 minutes, his best game since joining the Trail Blazers Feb. 4.
“He was in the right spots defensively. I think he started to picking stuff up a little bit better. He was aggressive, he was getting to the basket,” Billups said. “He’s a phenomenal athlete and I said if he just shoots jumpers all the time nobody can see his athleticism.”
From the other side of the half-court line, Towns lobbed a first-quarter pass that Jaden McDaniels caught while jumping and laid it in. Then he went coast to coast in the final 4 seconds of the first half and scored on a floater from the lane at the buzzer.
GOOD, BAD BEASLEY
Malik Beasley had 16 points before being ejected in the third quarter for head-butting Drew Eubanks after a battle under the basket. However, Beasley made four shots from outside the arc to establish a Minnesota franchise record for 3-pointers in a season with 193. Kevin Love set the previous record of 190 in 2013-14.
Trail Blazers: F Keljin Blevens started for the first time in his career, but went scoreless in 24 minutes. … Justice Winslow (right Achilles) missed his third straight game and remains day to day. … The Trail Blazers are 1-10 in division play.
Timberwolves: Minnesota was whistled for three delay-of-game violations. … F Taurean Prince missed the second half with back spasms. … G Patrick Beverley (right ankle soreness) missed the game as a precautionary measure. … G Anthony Edwards sat out his third straight game with a knee injury.
The teams play again Monday in Minnesota.