Road Reaction: Wizards 109, Timberwolves 95
On a day when they learned they'll be without at least one key rotation player for the remainder of the season, a slow start and an equally inept finish doomed the Timberwolves on Tuesday in their 10th loss in their past 11 outings.
Minnesota (5-19) fell behind by as many as 14 in the first half but had its deficit down to three late in the third quarter. But Washington (18-6) continued the best start in franchise history with a torrid fourth quarter spurred by Rasual Butler, outscoring the Wolves 35-26 in the final frame.
The Wizards did it in front of a sparse crowd announced at 15,823. But despite playing in a somewhat cavernous Verizon Center, the team Flip Saunders used to coach improved its Eastern Conference-best home mark to 13-2 and remains at second place in the East standings.
Once again, the Wolves were without starters Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic, all of whom are out with injuries till at least January. Backup point guard Mo Williams came back after a prolonged absence, but reserve big man Ronny Turiaf underwent arthroscopic surgery on his hip Tuesday in New York and is out for the year.
1 big moment: Twice inside the third quarter's final 4:04, the Wolves came within three points of tying, including a Gorgui Dieng dunk that made it 72-69 with 30.9 seconds remaining. But Butler led a game-deciding, 19-8 run, hitting 7 of 8 field-goal attempts for 18 points in the fourth frame alone. His 3-pointer with 5:51 left gave the Wizards a 96-82 lead, and Minnesota never threatened again.
2 top performers: Butler finished with a season-high-tying 23 points off the bench on 9-of-15 shooting, including 4 of 5 3-point tries. Wolves power forward Thaddeus Young scored his most points yet in a Minnesota uniform -- 29, just three shy of his career high. The eight-year veteran's 19 third-quarter points were his most ever in one period and the most by a Wolves player in any frame this season.
3 key stats: Including Tuesday's loss, Minnesota has held an opponent to less than 100 points on the road just once this year. Coming into the game, the Wolves were giving up an NBA-worst 115.6 points per game in 10 away contests.
Minnesota shot a season-low 57.1 percent from the foul stripe, missing 15 free throws in a game it lost by 14 points. Young, a 69.7-percent career free-throw shooter, went 5 for 12 from the line.
Washington point guard John Wall either scored or assisted on the Wizards' first 18 points and finished the first quarter with 10 points and six assists. He keyed a 14-2 Washington run to start the game and finished with 21 points and 17 assists -- as many helpers as Minnesota's entire team produced. He keyed a 14-2 Washington run to start the game.
Said: "He's got ultra-speed. You try to contain him. He's a good player; he's going to do what he does. He's going to get his points." -- Wolves point guard Zach LaVine on Wall
Seen: After missing Minnesota's past six games with back spasms, Williams played for the first time since Dec. 3. The 12th-year veteran came off the bench and had six points and two assists in 14 minutes, 23 seconds of playing time.
Also seen: Saunders, the Wolves' coach and president of basketball operations, conversed pregame with adversary and friend Randy Wittman, who took over in Washington after Saunders was fired as head coach there 17 games into the 2011-12 season. Wittman was an assistant under Saunders in D.C. Both men also served as the Wolves' head coach -- Flip from 1995-2005, and Wittman from 2007-09.
Next: The Wolves have two days off before their next game and will spend them on the East Coast. Minnesota travels to Boston on Friday before returning home to take on Indiana on Sunday.
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