MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Karl-Anthony Towns had 34 points and 21 rebounds in his return from the concussion protocol, helping the Minnesota Timberwolves stave off the Sacramento Kings for a 112-105 victory on Monday.
Derrick Rose added 20 points and Tyus Jones pitched in 16 points, eight assists and three steals for the Timberwolves, who split the previous two games without Towns, while he recovered following a highway crash last week involving the car he was riding in . The accident ended Towns’ streak of 302 consecutive starts to begin his NBA career.
Rookie Marvin Bagley III had 25 points and 11 rebounds and De’Aaron Fox scored 23 points for the Kings (31-29), who like the Timberwolves (29-31) are just below the cut for the Western Conference playoffs with the Los Angeles Lakers between them. The Kings, who haven’t reached the postseason since 2006, began the night tied in the loss column with the seventh-place San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers.
The Wolves built a 17-point lead in the third quarter before they slipped into some sloppy stretches of offense – they had 22 turnovers in the game, one off their season high – and saw their cushion vanish.
Bagley’s fast-break layup with 9:22 left brought the Kings within single digits for the first time in the second half. After Andrew Wiggins bricked a 3-pointer – he went 1-for-7 from behind the arc – to bring boos from the home crowd, Harrison Barnes sank two free throws for his first points of the game that cut the lead to 106-101 with 3:43 remaining. But Jones came up with a couple of key defensive plays, and Rose sank the game-sealing jumper with 29 seconds left to push the lead back past two possessions.
Kings coach Dave Joerger emerged from the All-Star break last week by moving Barnes to power forward, putting Bogdan Bogdanovich at small forward and sending Nemanja Bjelica to the second unit.
Two games later, Joerger made another surprise change to the rotation by sticking Bogdanovich back on the bench, sliding Barnes back to the “3” spot and giving the 6-foot-11 Bagley, the second overall pick in the draft last summer, just his second start of the season with the towering Towns presumably playing a part in the switch to the bigger lineup. The extra size didn’t help, though, as Towns took over the game with an 18-point second quarter.
The Kings actually led by as many as 13 points late in the first quarter, a start fueled as much by a 0 for 10 start by the Wolves from 3-point range, but Taj Gibson sparked the rally with his usual grinding work underneath before Towns got going. The two-time All-Star who’s just 23 years old made three 3-pointers and a windmill dunk to finish a fast break during a 20-1 run by the Wolves that put them up 48-39.
Kings: Barnes finished with just two points on 0-for-4 shooting from the floor, his lowest total since a one-point game for Golden State on March 31, 2015. In six games since arriving in a trade with Dallas, Barnes is just 21 for 65 from the field and 7 for 30 from 3-point range for 62 points.
Timberwolves: Rose hit a 3-pointer with 3:56 left in the third quarter for an 86-70 lead, ending a 0-for-22 stretch from behind the arc. Having missed six games to an ankle injury over that stretch, Rose’s last make was on Jan. 15 at Philadelphia.
Kings: Start a four-game homestand on Wednesday against Eastern Conference-leading Milwaukee.
Timberwolves: Begin a three-game trip on Wednesday at Atlanta.
More AP NBA coverage: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports