For the record, Karl-Anthony Towns wanted Andrew Wiggins to score 40 Friday night against Dallas at Target Center.
It would have been a Wolves franchise first, having a player hit 40 three games in a row. And, after Wiggins opened the game with 16 points in the first 12 minutes, it seemed in reach.
But there was a game to be won. And Towns saw an opportunity. And so he finished what Wiggins started.
After scoring six points with five turnovers in the first half, Towns scored 20 in the second, including 14 in the fourth quarter as the Wolves downed the Mavericks 97-84 in the first game out of the All Star break for both teams.
Towns had 18 rebounds to go with his 26 points. Wiggins scored 27, but turned into a playmaker late, with three assists down the stretch. It was enough to finish the game on a 22-9 run after the Mavericks had tied the game at 75 with 7 minutes, 58 seconds left in the game.
“It’s amazing,” Ricky Rubio said of Towns and Wiggins, who combined for 53 points, 25 rebounds, six assists and two steals. “These two can be a legend combo. We have to take advantage of that.”
Especially Friday. The Wolves came out of the break pledging to make a run at the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. After No. 8 Denver lost Thursday, the Wolves entered Friday’s game three games out of that spot, but with a slew of teams to leapfrog.
One less, at least for now. The Wolves (23-35), who won for the third time in four games, pushed a half-game ahead of the Mavericks (22-35) into a tie for 11th in the West, with both Portland and Sacramento between them and the Nuggets.
The Wolves shot 52.6 percent, getting several fast-break opportunities thanks to Rubio, who had 14 assists to go with 13 points and three steals in his first game after enduring a week of trade rumors. On defense, the Wolves held Dallas to 42.2-percent shooting. And, off the bench, Tyus Jones scored 11 points in nearly 25 minutes, hitting all three of his three-point shots. Seth Curry had a game-high 31 for Dallas. Harrison Barnes had 20.
But it was Wiggins to start, Towns to finish.
Wiggins got the Wolves started with 16 first-quarter points, which was much-needed considering Towns’ early struggles with double teams. Wiggins, who had scored 40 and 41 points in the two games before the break, had said he was the one player who didn’t want to take the time off. But he didn’t need to worry. He came out firing.
The Wolves led by four after a quarter, by nine at the half and were up by as many as 15 in the third. But after a 12-4 start to the fourth, the Mavs tied the game on Devin Harris’ three-pointer with 7:58 left. This time there was no collapse.
Towns saw to that, scoring 12 of the Wolves’ final 22 points. The difference? “Just not playing like it was the Rising Stars game,” Towns said of the game between top first- and second-year players over All Star weekend. “I was being real loose with the ball. I got some rust off in the first half. Second half I was able to make more plays, read the defense a little better.”
Wiggins? He’ll have to settle for his 16th consecutive 20-point game, matching Kevin Garnett (twice) for the longest such streak in team history. Wiggins, who has scored 108 in his last three games, just missed matching Garnett for most points in three straight games (112 in 2000).
“KG is a legend,” Wiggins said. “He’s who made the Timberwolves the Timberwolves. Hopefully I can keep [the streak] going.”