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Karl-Anthony Towns leads Minnesota Timberwolves past Sacramento Kings

By Jess Myers, The Sports Xchange   |   March 24, 2016 at 1:59 AM
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The playoffs are not on the horizon for the Minnesota Timberwolves this season, but they look more and more like a team with a bright future.

Karl-Anthony Towns gave his potential rookie-of-the-year campaign another boost on Wednesday, leading the way with 26 points on 11 of 17 shooting as the Timberwolves snapped a two-game losing streak, beating the Sacramento Kings 113-104.

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Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine both added 23 for the Wolves, who are getting strong play from young stars like that trio.

"I thought our guys just grinded it out. We made some mistakes early, but in the third quarter we just executed, started making passes and got some defensive stops. Just picked up our energy," said Wolves interim coach Sam Mitchell, praising LaVine for a second half surge. "We talked to him at halftime and told him you've got to pick it up. Little did I know he'd get 23 in the second half. Zach just has that talent, he's explosive. We needed it."

The Kings got 25 points from Rajon Rondo on 10 of 16 shooting, but have now lost four of their last five.

With 11 rebounds, Towns recorded his 42nd double-double of the season, and the sixth in a row for the top overall draft pick from last summer. Kosta Koufos had 15 points and led all rebounders with 15 for the Kings, who closed out their road trip with back-to-back losses.

"For a rookie that's pretty impressive," said Rondo, praising Towns. "He's only going to get better, and there's nothing he can't do. He can stretch the floor, make plays off the dribble and he can rebound the ball. He did all that tonight as well."

Minnesota led 50-48 at halftime after Towns hit a short jumper in the final minute of a sloppily-played first half. Rondo led all scorers with 15 points -- 14 of them in the first quarter, while Towns and Wiggins each had 14 for Minnesota.

Free throws were anything but free in the first half as both teams struggled at the line. Sacramento hit 7 of 16, and Minnesota was just slightly better, hitting 5 of 11 at the line. Koufos led all rebounders with 9 for the Kings, while Gorgui Deng pulled down 6 for Minnesota.

In the third quarter the Kings stayed cold, while Towns put on a show, scoring a dozen in the quarter and boost the Minnesota lead to as many as 14 points. The Timberwolves led 84-72 going into the fourth.

"Obviously we gave up way too many paint points and way too many easy baskets in the paint," Kings coach George Karl said. "I actually thought the first half was pretty good defense, and in the second half, in the third quarter, we just didn't have any presence. It felt like they scored about every possession on the offensive court. In the fourth quarter we fought back, but their skill set is pretty impressive."

Rondo returned to the game with under 11 minutes to play, and immediately keyed a 10-2 run by Sacramento which pulled the Kings to within a basket at 89-87. But LaVine got hot late, as Minnesota re-build a double-digit lead they did not relinquish. LaVine hit 5 of 10 free throws, and joked that his phone would be ringing as a result.

"I can already hear my dad about to call me about my free throws," LaVine said. "My shoulder kind of hurts but I should've hit at least two more of those, at least get 70 percent."

Rondo, who leads the NBA in assists, had 12 on Wednesday.

NOTES: The Timberwolves and Minnesota Lynx released images of the new video scoreboard that will be installed at Target Center during the WNBA's summer break for the Olympics. The center-hung scoreboard will feature four large video screens 18 feet high and 33 feet wide. ... Sacramento was without All-Star C DeMarcus Cousins because of a bruised right knee, which he injured Monday during the Kings' loss in Chicago. Coach George Karl said before the game the Kings are a different team without Cousins in the lineup. "I looked at the stats. It wasn't very nice," Karl said. "We score less points without him and we're worse defensively." ... After signing F/C Greg Smith to two 10-day contracts, the Timberwolves signed him for the rest of the season. Since joining the team on March 2, Smith has averaged just over 10 minutes a game. He spent four seasons with the Houston Rockets and played for the Dallas Mavericks last season.

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