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Karl Towns leads Minnesota Timberwolves over Toronto Raptors

By
Tyler Mason, The Sports Xchange

MINNEAPOLIS -- While most of his Timberwolves teammates will have time to rest during the upcoming NBA All-Star break, Minnesota rookie Karl-Anthony Towns will be busy with the weekend's festivities.

Wednesday's performance was a pretty good way for Towns and the young Timberwolves team to head into the nine-day break.

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Towns scored a career-high 35 points to help lead Minnesota to a 117-112 victory over Toronto as the Timberwolves completed their biggest comeback of the season.

"We got a great win tonight against a very good team, a playoff team," Towns said. "We did a great job as a team coming back in the second half. I think that's what we're most proud of."

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Minnesota trailed by as many as 18 points in the first half before a big second half lifted the Timberwolves to their 17th win of the year. Second-year guard Andrew Wiggins, who will be joining Towns and teammate Zach LaVine at the All-Star Weekend in Toronto, added 26 points -- including 13 in the fourth quarter.

The victory gave the Timberwolves (17-37) more wins than they had all of last season when they won just 16 games.

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"We're in the right direction," Wiggins said. "We have all the pieces. We have all the talent. Now we just need to put everything together."

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Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan matched Towns with 35 points, but it wasn't enough for Toronto, which came into the game having won 14 of its previous 15. Guard Kyle Lowry chipped in 14 points and seven assists for the Raptors (35-17).

Toronto allowed Minnesota to get to the free throw line often in the second half. The Timberwolves attempted 53 free throws Wednesday and made 43 of them.

"You put a team on the line 53 times, that's not focus," said Raptors coach Duane Casey. "You can't win that way."

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Towns added 11 rebounds, which gave him 30 double-doubles this season. He surpassed Kevin Love for the most double-doubles by a Timberwolves rookie. Love had 29 double-doubles during the 2008-09 season.

In addition, Towns became just the sixth player in NBA history to have a 35-point, 10-rebound, 3-block game before turning 21. He joins Shaquille O'Neal, Chris Webber, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James on that exclusive list.

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None of Towns' three blocks Wednesday were bigger than the one he had on Cory Joseph with 20 seconds remaining and the Timberwolves holding onto a 113-110 lead.

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"He won that game for us," Wiggins said of Towns.

Towns, who is averaging a double-double during his rookie year, was asked after Wednesday's game if the things he's doing in his first season surprise even himself.

"I do surprise myself sometimes," Towns said. "Missing free throws, missing open jump shots, I surprise myself sometimes."

Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio scored 19 points on 5-of-9 shooting and had eight assists, while forward Gorgui Dieng tallied a double-double with 14 points and 10 boards. Minnesota's bench scored just 10 points but its young starting five did more than enough scoring to escape with the win.

The Raptors finished the first half with 68 points, the most Toronto had in the first half of any game this season. DeRozan paced the Raptors with 22 first-half points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field.

Minnesota erased a 13-point halftime deficit with a 33-point third quarter, holding Toronto to 21 points in the quarter.

"They came out with a lot more energy," Joseph said of the third quarter. "They came out hitting us in the mouth and when we tried to start picking it up, they already had the momentum and kept pushing on it."

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The Timberwolves tied it at 78 on a layup by LaVine and took a brief lead in the third quarter. Minnesota got to the free throw line 37 times through the first three quarters, hitting 32.

The Timberwolves were playing short-handed as forward Tayshaun Prince was absent for a personal reason. LaVine started in Prince's place and finished with 13 points and five assists. All five Minnesota starters scored in double figures.

NOTES: Timberwolves F Tayshaun Prince missed the game to be in Detroit on Wednesday night to attend the jersey retirement ceremony of his former Pistons teammate Chauncey Billups. Zach LaVine started in Prince's place. ... Toronto coach Duane Casey was the Timberwolves' coach for the 2005-06 season and part of the 2006-07 season. He entered Wednesday's game needing one win to reach .500 in his career (242-243). "I couldn't even tell you what my record is," Casey said. ... Wednesday marked the last game for both teams before the NBA All-Star break. Minnesota returns to action on Feb. 19 in Memphis. Toronto's next game is Feb. 19 at Chicago.

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