Wolves overcome 19-point deficit to beat Magic
MINNEAPOLIS — Through 17 minutes, the Minnesota Timberwolves watched the Orlando Magic shoot 76.4 percent and open a 19-point lead. Returning home after a trip was looking like another letdown for Minnesota.
Then the Timberwolves started playing team defense.
Karl-Anthony Towns had 29 points and 15 rebounds, and Jeff Teague added 23 points and 10 assists in his return to the Minnesota lineup in the Timberwolves’ 120-103 comeback victory Friday night.
Taj Gibson added 14 points and 10 rebounds for Minnesota. The Timberwolves recovered from a 19-point deficit midway through the second quarter with a 44-12 run through the 5:51 of the third quarter.
“Once we started playing defense,” Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau said. “I thought the last five minutes of the second quarter we got going. We got some stops. I thought (Anthony Tolliver) gave us a big lift. He hit a couple big 3s and that gave us the energy, gave us a lift, and the defense, I thought, in the second half was very good.”
Nikola Vucevic had 22 points for Orlando, but just eight after the first quarter. The Magic, who had won three of four, hit 26 of their first 34 shots (76.4 percent) before fading.
Terrence Ross scored 13 points off the bench for Orlando, but he missed his final four 3-pointers after starting 3 of 5 from beyond the arc during the Magic’s hot start. Evan Fournier added 21 points.
“This game was ours to take, to be honest,” Fournier said. “It was really ours. When you’re up 20 on the road, you should be winning those games.”
Minnesota found a way to slow Orlando in the second and continued the momentum into the second half. The Magic missed 12 of their final 14 shots of the first half and were 7 of 23 in the third quarter.
Teague and Towns took over offensively in the second half. Teague had nine points and four assists in the third, and Towns had 21 points in the second half after first-half foul trouble.
“It was just lazy, undisciplined and soft,” Orlando forward Aaron Gordon said. “We didn’t have it tonight on the defensive end. It’s not OK at this point in the season.”
The Wolves came back from a halftime deficit for the sixth time in 22 games this season. Friday matched their best comeback of the season and five of their six wins when trailing at the half have come at home.
“We came in here, at halftime, we said, ‘hey, we’ve got to change the game,'” Towns said. “We did that. In essence, we came in here and mostly slapped each other and said, ‘Wake up.'”
Magic: F Jonathon Simmons returned after missing two games because of a sprained left ankle. Simmons scored six points in 21 minutes off the bench. … Orlando set a season high with the 68 first-half points. The franchise record is 78, set on Nov. 3, 2010, against Minnesota.
Timberwolves: F Robert Covington missed his second straight game with a right knee bone bruise and is sidelined indefinitely. G Derrick missed his fourth straight game because of a sprained right ankle. … Towns had his 25th double-double in 39 games this season. … Without Covington, Tolliver played for the second straight game and matched his season high with 11 points. … Minnesota is 13-6 at home this season and 5-15 on the road.
Teague wasn’t rusty in his return after missing nine games due to left ankle inflammation. Teague was 8 of 10 from the field and hit all three of his 3-pointers, including a quick shot from 28 feet to beat the 24-second clock on one third-quarter possession.
It was Teague’s fourth game of the season with at least 20 points.
“Teague lived in the paint,” Magic coach Steve Clifford said. “He set the tone early in the game right away, and we were never able to stop his penetration, pick-and-roll or anything else. I thought he was the biggest key in the game.”
Magic: Their six-game trip continues Sunday against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Timberwolves: Host the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.