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Karl-Anthony Towns’ late three leads to Wolves’ win over short-handed Cavaliers

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Cleveland Cavaliers
Minnesota Timberwolves forward Anthony Edwards (1) drives against Cleveland Cavaliers forward Isaac Okoro (35) in the second quarter at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on Monday, Feb. 28, 2022, in Cleveland.
David Richard / USA Today Sports
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CLEVELAND — Karl-Anthony Towns had taken one shot in the fourth quarter. He was shut out of an offense that was wilting as Minnesota’s once 20-plus point third-quarter lead had wilted into a tie with 30 seconds to play.

But finally, with the game on the line, the Timberwolves thought it prudent to turn to their best player.

He delivered.

Minnesota turned to a D’Angelo Russell-Towns pick and roll with the game on the line, hoping to get Towns open for a pop and a good look from deep. Cleveland switched the screen, leaving Towns to square up on Cavs wing Cedi Osman. But he quickly noted the height difference and fired away without impediment.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Cleveland Cavaliers
Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns celebrates his three-point basket late in the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday, Feb. 28, 2022, at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland.
David Richard / USA Today Sports

Bang.

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The triple, followed by the rare defensive stop that ensued on the other end of the floor, sealed Minnesota’s 127-122 win over a short-handed Cleveland on Monday.

“It felt pretty good when it left my hand,” Towns said.

Timberwolves coach Chris Finch lamented the way the offense veered away from Towns. After a dominant first quarter in which he scored 10 points, Towns was an afterthought in the offense for most of the next three quarters.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Cleveland Cavaliers
Cleveland Cavaliers center Evan Mobley (4) defends a shot by Minnesota Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels (3) in the third quarter at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on Monday, Feb. 28, 2022, in Cleveland.
David Richard / USA Today Sports

It didn’t matter much, because the offense wasn’t the story for Minnesota (33-29) for much of the night. In the second and third quarters, Minnesota applied the requisite ball pressure to bother a team without any of its top three guards. Darius Garland, Rajon Rondo and Caris LeVert were all out for Cleveland (36-25).

Minnesota used that to force 23 turnovers that turned into 35 points on the other end. That helped the Timberwolves build a 23-point lead.

But that pressure defense was fleeting, as Cleveland — using Osman, a small forward, as its floor general — recaptured its rhythm in the fourth quarter to rally back. Yet, thankfully for Minnesota, Towns was able to prevent the complete collapse.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Cleveland Cavaliers
Cleveland Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen (31) dribbles beside Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) in the third quarter at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on Monday, Feb. 28, 2022, in Cleveland.
David Richard / USA Today Sports

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