Mavericks struggle in loss to Timberwolves

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Karl-Anthony Towns had 26 points and 18 rebounds and Andrew Wiggins scored 27 points to help the Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Dallas Mavericks 97-84 on Friday night.

Ricky Rubio added 13 points and 14 assists a day after the Timberwolves declined an opportunity to trade him to the New York Knicks for Derrick Rose. The Wolves shot 52.6 percent to pull within 2 1/2 games of Denver for the eighth seed in the Western Conference.

Towns had seven turnovers, but scored 14 of his points in the fourth quarter to turn back the Mavericks.

Seth Curry scored a career-high 31 points and Harrison Barnes added 20 points and six rebounds for Dallas. Dirk Nowitzki was just 4 for 14 and Wes Matthews was 2 for 9 as the Mavs dropped three games back of the Nuggets.

The Mavericks acquired Nerlens Noel from Philadelphia on Thursday, but he wasn’t able to join the team in time for the game. They sure could have used him.

Minnesota outscored Dallas 48-30 in the paint, with Wiggins and Towns attacking the rim all game long. Wiggins scored 16 points in the first quarter and Towns exploited the undersized Mavericks in the second half. Even Rubio got into the act, going behind his back on a dribble and scoring with the right hand to give the Wolves a 90-80 lead with three minutes to play.

Curry tried to keep Dallas in it with his shooting, but he didn’t have much help. Nowitzki air-balled a wide open 3 and clanked another great look in the fourth quarter. He missed all four of his shots from long range and finished with eight points.

TIP-INS

Mavericks: Curry’s previous career-high was 24 points against San Antonio on Jan. 29. … Devin Harris had eight points off the bench, and his 3 tied it at 75 with eight minutes to go.

Timberwolves: Wiggins topped 20 points for the 16th straight game, which ties a franchise record. Kevin Garnett did it twice in his Wolves career. … PF Adreian Payne was back with the team for the first time since Feb. 1. Payne had been at home after being diagnosed with a blood disorder that hindered clotting. He still has not been cleared for contact but did participate in the morning shootaround.

NOEL’S DEBUT

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said Dallas has been talking with Philadelphia for most of the season about acquiring Noel to bolster the team’s athleticism and rim protection in the frontcourt. The deal was completed on Thursday, a few hours before the deadline. But Noel wasn’t in Minneapolis. He flew to Dallas to get acclimated and Carlisle said he would likely make his Mavericks debut on Saturday at home against the Pelicans.

Carlisle said the team will try to ease Noel in and that it was no guarantee that he would be in the starting lineup, though it would seem inevitable that the 22-year-old former No. 6 overall pick will slide in at center and allow Nowitzki to move back to power forward.

UP NEXT

Mavericks: Dallas heads back home to host New Orleans on Saturday in the Pelicans’ second game since acquiring DeMarcus Cousins.

Timberwolves: Minnesota heads to Houston on Saturday to start a four-game trip.