Towns dominates as Timberwolves rout Kings
MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau has grown tired of answering questions about the high number of minutes his starting lineup has played in recent weeks.
Thursday’s lopsided win should help quiet those questions, at least temporarily.
Minnesota’s starting five built a big enough cushion to rest for most of the fourth quarter in Thursday’s 119-96 rout of the Sacramento Kings. It gave Thibodeau a chance to empty his bench two days after the Timberwolves fell in overtime to Philadelphia.
When Minnesota lost to Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday, Wolves center Karl-Anthony was particularly hard on himself and blamed himself for the loss. Perhaps that was extra motivation for Towns on Thursday as he led Minnesota with 30 points, 14 rebounds and a season-high five blocks.
“I came to be an assassin tonight, not a basketball player,” Towns said. “I wanted to try to be as active as possible and just disrupt the game as much as possible as well.”
Andrew Wiggins followed up a rough shooting night two nights earlier to score 22 points for the Wolves on 9-of-17 shooting. Jimmy Butler chipped in 21 for Minnesota (17-12), which has won three of its last four games.
Perhaps just as important was the lack of fourth-quarter minutes for Towns, Wiggins and Butler, who all topped 40 minutes in Tuesday’s overtime loss.
“It’s nice to have some clarity as the end result,” Towns said. “That comes back to the team doing an amazing job and my teammates just being fantastic all night.”
George Hill scored 16 points while Zach Randolph had 15 points and nine rebounds for Sacramento (9-19). Center Kosta Koufos had 11 points and eight rebounds off the bench.
Minnesota used a 13-0 run in the third quarter to grow its lead to 18 points. Towns had five straight points as part of his big night on the offensive end.
“He’s one of the best bigs in the NBA,” Kings center Willie-Cauley Stein said of Towns, his former teammate at Kentucky. “He gets the ball every time. They run a lot of stuff for him. He’s always going to be in a rhythm, so it’s tough.”
The Wolves’ lead increased to as many as 27 in the third quarter as Minnesota kept its foot on the gas. The Timberwolves outscored the Kings 31-16 in the third as Sacramento struggled from the floor. The Kings shot just 29.2 percent (7 of 24) in the third quarter.
A sizable fourth-quarter lead was a welcomed change of pace for Tom Thibodeau’s team after Tuesday’s exhausting overtime loss to Philadelphia. Sacramento was never able to chip away significantly at Minnesota’s lead. The Kings trailed by 10 after the first quarter and couldn’t get within fewer than seven points in the second half.
Turnovers didn’t help the Kings, who gave the ball away 14 times. Minnesota converted those turnovers into 18 easy points the other way.
“It was lack of focus. Guys just not catching the ball, not passing the ball, not dribbling the basketball,” said Kings coach Dave Joerger. “The ones that are out in front of God and everybody just make you scratch your head.”
Towns reached the 30-point mark for the fourth time this season. He became the second player in Timberwolves history to register 30 points with 10 or more rebounds, five or more assists and five or more blocks in a game. Kevin Garnett did so three times with Minnesota.
The trio of Towns, Butler and point guard Jeff Teague combined for 20 of the Timberwolves’ 29 assists.
“When we play like that and share the ball, we’re going to score,” Thibodeau said.
NOTES: Kings G De’Aaron Fox left Thursday’s game in the first half with a left quadriceps contusion. Fox scored two points in seven minutes before exiting the game. ... Timberwolves G Marcus Georges-Hunt, who had played only 15 minutes all season as a seldom-used backup, played a season-high 17 minutes Thursday. He scored five points off the bench and hit his first three-pointer of the season. ... Minnesota C Karl-Anthony Towns picked up his league-leading 23rd double-double of the season. ... Sacramento continues its road trip Sunday in Toronto. ... The Timberwolves host the Phoenix Suns on Saturday at Target Center.