Towns, Butler pace Timberwolves past Suns
MINNEAPOLIS — Karl-Anthony Towns wasn’t going to be limited to just a big fourth quarter for a second straight game.
The Minnesota Timberwolves and their star center wanted to put Friday’s disappointing loss behind them quickly.
Towns had 32 points and 12 rebounds, and Jimmy Butler chipped in with 25 points as the Minnesota Timberwolves held on for a 119-108 win against the Phoenix Suns on Sunday.
Towns recorded his league-leading 16th double-double and Andrew Wiggins scored 21 points with a season-high four 3-pointers for Minnesota, which survived another strong shooting night from an opponent. Phoenix shot 50.6 percent from the field and was 13 of 26 from 3-point range despite playing without leading scorer Devin Booker.
“It’s good to get a win, no matter what,” Towns said. “What kind of win, whether it’s ugly, very good looking, it doesn’t matter. All wins count the same and I’m glad we came out with a win today.”
Taj Gibson had 16 points and a season-high 14 rebounds for the Timberwolves (12-8), who had lost three of their previous four games. Minnesota is off to its best start since 2005-06 when it also started 12-8.
Mike James scored a career-high 26 points off the bench and T.J. Warren added 18 for the Suns (7-14), who have lost three in a row. Phoenix scored 61 points off the bench but had 16 turnovers which led to 28 Timberwolves’ points.
“We got a little sloppy with turnovers that led to easy baskets, otherwise it’s a closer game,” Suns interim coach Jay Triano said. “I think every time we turned it over they took advantage of it. Got to be better with the ball, got to take care of it a little bit better.”
The Suns entered the day as one of the league’s weakest-shooting 3-point teams, averaging 8.4 makes on 25.9 attempts per game. Booker, who missed the game with right great toe inflammation, was a big part of the limited success with 2.3 3-pointers per game on 35.7 percent shooting.
James and the bench attacked Minnesota from deep. James was 2 of 4 from 3-point range. Dragan Bender and Troy Daniels each hit three 3s and Phoenix was holding its own while hitting from the outside.
“I think it’s a little bit skewed because obviously Booker didn’t play,” James said of his career-best scoring effort. “Most of the shots I took tonight were more his shots.”
Daniels hit a 3 with 3:49 left in the first half for a 3-point Suns’ lead. But the Wolves closed the half on a 9-3 run. Phoenix was 8 of 14 from 3 in the opening half.
Minnesota was coming off a loss at home to Miami on Monday in which the Heat hit a franchise-record 19 3-pointers.
“The way they were pushing the ball, I thought Mike James and their bench came in and they really hurt us in the second quarter,” Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said.
In the loss to Miami, Towns had just two points before scoring 16 in the fourth quarter. Towns was more aggressive on the offensive end on Sunday, including hitting two 3-pointers and grabbing five offensive rebounds.
“I thought Karl had great activity today, so that was good,” Thibodeau said. “We need that from him.”
As a team, Minnesota grabbed a season-high 19 offensive rebounds and held a 32-12 advantage in second-chance points.
The Wolves’ defense showed improvement in one area against the Suns. Minnesota entered the game 28th in the NBA in transition defense, but held Phoenix to four fast-break points. The Suns averaged 13.8 points on the break coming into the game.
NOTES: Minnesota PG Jeff Teague (sore right Achilles’ tendon) and reserve F Nemanja Bjelica were both out for the second straight game. Coach Tom Thibodeau said Teague and Bjelica were close to playing, but they were eventually held out. ... G Tyus Jones started in place of Teague, drawing his first NBA start. He had nine points, seven assists and seven steals. ... Phoenix reserve G Troy Daniels had 11 points and has scored double-digits in five of his last seven games. ... The Timberwolves’ four-game homestand wraps up Tuesday against Washington, which is without star John Wall. ... The Suns continue their season-long, six-game road trip on Tuesday at Chicago.