Towns, Rubio lead Wolves over Wizards, 119-104
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Karl-Anthony Towns had 39 points and 13 rebounds, Ricky Rubio scored 22 points and broke his own franchise record with 19 assists, and the Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Washington Wizards 119-104 on Monday night.
Nemanja Bjelica added 16 points and 10 boards off the bench for the Timberwolves, who entered the game 3½ games behind Denver for the eighth seed in the Western Conference. Minnesota shot 52 percent and Rubio topped 20 points in back-to-back games for the second time in his six-year career.
John Wall scored 27 points for the Wizards, who fell 2 ½ games back of Cleveland for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. Bradley Beal added 20 points, but Washington lost for the first time in six games.
Rubio has been playing the best basketball of his life over the last two months, and it has culminated with a brilliant week against some of the best point guards in the league. He outplayed Chris Paul and Stephen Curry in home victories over the Clippers and Warriors last week, then put up 22 points and eight assists in a loss at Milwaukee on Saturday.
But he's never been better than in the first quarter against Wall and the Wizards. Threading bounce passes through windows that weren't even open, Rubio doled out 10 assists in the first quarter. Bjelica was a primary beneficiary, catching a 40-foot outlet pass for a layup and a bounce pass that squeezed between two defenders and onto his fingertips for a layup that put the Wolves up 35-14.
The Wizards were undaunted, having come back from a 21-point deficit in the first half to beat Portland on Saturday night.
Wall got off to a slow start shooting, but he attacked the rim relentlessly to help Washington climb back into the game. Wall made 14 of 19 free throws, Beal converted a four-point play and Wall's two freebies made it 102-97 with 4:21 to play.
But Towns hit a 3 and two free throws, and the Wizards couldn't find the energy to finish another furious comeback in their fifth game in seven nights.
Wizards: Wall was chosen Eastern Conference player of the week after averaging 29.8 points and 11.3 assists. ... Bojan Bogdanovic had 12 points but made just 1 of 6 3s off the bench.
Timberwolves: Towns was named Western Conference player of the week after averaging 29.0 points and 12.3 rebounds in three games last week. ... Rubio's 10 assists in the first quarter tied Paul's third quarter against New Orleans on Dec. 10 for most in a quarter this season.
BEATING THE SNOW
The Timberwolves were originally scheduled to fly to Boston on Tuesday. But with forecasts calling for a huge snowstorm to hit the Northeast, the Wolves changed plans and scheduled their flight for right after the game.
Wizards: Washington heads back home for two games, starting with Dallas on Wednesday night.
Timberwolves: Minnesota starts a tough three-game road trip in Boston on Wednesday night.