Timberwolves hand Magic sixth straight loss
MINNEAPOLIS -- When Jeff Teague and the Minnesota Timberwolves’ starters stayed on the bench to start the fourth quarter, Teague hoped he wouldn’t be needed again Wednesday night.
The Orlando Magic and Minnesota’s reserves ensured Teague and the Timberwolves’ top unit were in for a longer night than expected.
Teague had 22 points and 11 assists to post his sixth double-double for Minnesota. Jimmy Butler tied a season high with 26 points, and Taj Gibson added a season-high 24 points as the Wolves held on for a 124-118 victory over Orlando.
“Honestly, I (was thinking everybody is) going to get a chance to play tonight,” Teague said. “I think we were playing well and I thought we were just going to continue to keep playing that way.”
Instead, Minnesota saw its 26-point lead dwindle as the Magic outscored the Wolves 38-18 over the final period. Minnesota’s bench was a combined 3-of-20 shooting in the game and coach Tom Thibodeau had to go back to his starters, who each played at least 36 minutes Wednesday.
“I was concerned because I saw they brought their starters back to start the fourth,” Thibodeau said. “So matching up with the starters was a concern. The way they shoot the 3, I knew that the lead wasn’t safe.”
The Magic closed within 122-118 with 1.9 seconds remaining on dunk by Evan Fournier, who had 19 points. But Orlando (8-10) lost its sixth game in a row.
“Our starters came back in a little mad about how they performed in the third quarter,” Magic coach Frank Vogel said. “We got to play mad for four quarters. We’ve lost six in a row. Got to play that way to start games and throughout the game.”
Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns had 18 points and 13 rebounds for his 14th double-double of the season, which equals New Orleans’ Demarcus Cousins for most in the NBA. Towns has notched a double-double in seven of his past eight games.
All five starters scored in double-figures for the Timberwolves (11-7), who had lost back-to-back games and have had tough moments in the fourth quarter throughout the season. They missed their first 14 shots of the final period and are 28th in the NBA in fourth quarter scoring this season.
The Wolves were outscored by 12 and let a fourth-quarter lead slip in a three-point loss on Sunday at home to Detroit.
”We got to play like we’re down 20 instead of playing like we’re up 20,“ Gibson said. ”When you try to guard the lead, things tend to happen. When you’re playing like you’ve got nothing to lose and you’re down, you keep playing and running fast, running to offense, trying to get your points, trying to just get things done. When you’re trying to be safe with the lead, you never know. You’re turning down shots, you’re not being aggressive.
“The defense has got to be there. You can’t let a team like that, especially a team that has such good, fast pace get going late.”
Aaron Gordon led Orlando with 26 points. Terrence Ross scored a season-high 22 points, Elfrid Payton had 10 points and 13 assists, and Nikola Vucevic added 11 points and 14 rebounds for the Magic, who were facing the big deficit because the Wolves pulled turned an up-and-down game in their favor in the third.
Minnesota outscored Orlando 41-18 in the third and ended the quarter on a 20-5 run to take a 106-80 lead, the biggest advantage of the night. It was the third time this season the Wolves scored at least 40 points in a quarter.
Andrew Wiggins scored 11 of his 20 points in the third and Minnesota shot 12 of 19 from the floor in the quarter.
“I think we just need to come together before we start the half, come together have a little meeting, whatever, powwow, and then go out there and compete,” Gordon said. “That’s the biggest thing. We got to do our jobs.”
NOTES: Orlando F Jonathan Isaac missed his fifth straight game with a sprained right ankle. Coach Frank Vogel indicated Isaac is getting close and could return on the team’s four-game road trip. ... Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters Wednesday that rookie C Justin Patton is going through non-contact drills and is getting close to being ready. Patton has been out all season with a broken bone in his left foot. ... Wednesday marked the start of a four-game homestand for the Timberwolves. They will play 10 of their next 14 games at home, where they are 6-2 this season. ... The Magic play Friday at Boston, which had its league-best, 16-game winning streak snapped at Miami on Wednesday.