SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) With Minnesota’s slow start to the season a distant memory, Andrew Wiggins firmly believes the Timberwolves are ready to make an anticipated push back into playoff contention.
With only 22 games left in the regular season, they better be.
Karl-Anthony Towns had 29 points and 17 rebounds, Wiggins scored 27 points and Minnesota beat the Sacramento Kings 102-88 on Monday night.
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”Right now we need these games,” Wiggins said. ”They were in front of us and we need a game like this to keep going forward.”
With four wins in the last five games, Minnesota is doing just that.
Ricky Rubio had nine points and 11 assists to help the Timberwolves move within one game of the Kings as both teams try to catch Denver for the eighth spot in the West.
”We’re trying to make the push,” Rubio said. ”We know it’s hard. There’s a lot of teams in there, but we’re not going to quit.”
Towns and Wiggins were dominant against the Kings, who had beaten the Wolves handily in the first two games between the teams this season.
Towns shot 13 of 19 from the floor and sparked a big run in the second quarter when Minnesota took control. Wiggins exploited a size advantage against Sacramento and repeatedly scored inside.
”Karl got a bunch of them off the offensive glass when we had to help, Andrew just went to spots on the floor and said, `I’m 6-foot-8, I’m going to post up here, I’m going to get this shot and that shot,”’ Kings coach Dave Joerger said. ”He’s got a nice tempo to his game.”
Kosta Koufos had 14 points and 11 rebounds for Sacramento. The Kings are 1-2 since trading All-Star DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans during the All-Star break.
The Wolves led by 21 at one point and maintained a double-digit lead throughout the second half to win for the fourth time in six games.
Two nights after an exhausting 142-130 loss to Houston, Minnesota got off to a slow start and trailed until a 13-0 run early in the second quarter. Towns scored nine points during the run, including a putback that extended the Wolves’ lead to 38-31.
Minnesota went on another big run before halftime, capped by Rubio’s 18-foot jumper to put the Wolves up 60-44 at halftime.
Sacramento made its best push coming out of the break and closed within 63-56 before Wiggins made a pair of long jumpers.
”Slow start and then our bench came in and got us going,” Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau said. ”We scored 40 points in the second quarter, held them to 19, and that’s what turned it.”
Nemanja Bjelica had 10 points and 12 rebounds for the Wolves.
WIGGINS STREAK OF 20s
Wiggins has scored 20 or more points in a franchise-record 18 consecutive games. Kevin Garnett owns the second-longest streak of 16, having done it twice during his career.
”I’m just trying to stay aggressive and keep attacking,” Wiggins said. ”I’m getting to my spots and my teammates do a great job of setting screens and getting me open.”
Timberwolves: It took Wiggins a while to warm up, but once he got going, Sacramento had no answer. That helped take some pressure off Towns after the 7-footer carried Minnesota’s offense early.
Kings: Without Cousins, the team is searching for a consistent scoring threat. Only one Sacramento player – Koufos – made more than five baskets. A sloppy second quarter on both ends of the court didn’t help.
Timberwolves: Play at Utah on Wednesday. The Jazz have won both games between the two teams this season.
Kings: Host Brooklyn on Wednesday in the Nets’ first visit to Golden 1 Center.