By DAVE CAMPBELL – AP Sports Writer
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Karl-Anthony Towns had 28 points and 10 rebounds, and the Minnesota Timberwolves eliminated the exhausted Los Angeles Lakers for the second time this season, 110-92 on Friday night.
In the opinion of coach Chris Finch, Towns recently doubled down on his quest to establish himself as the best big man in the league.
“Just get what he wants, where he wants,” Finch said.
Towns was coming off a 32-point performance in Denver on Wednesday night, beating Nikola Jokic.
“I’m going to let people guess and make their judgment. I just know that every day when I come here I play the game with tremendous confidence, ”Towns said.
Malik Beasley and D’Angelo Russell each scored 17 points and Jarred Vanderbilt had a career-high 16 rebounds to help Wolves win their third straight game. They first played without star Anthony Edwards, who was placed in NBA health and safety protocols in the afternoon.
“I wanted to set the standard. I wanted to try to impose myself very quickly in the game, realizing that Ant isn’t there, ”said Towns.
LeBron James recorded 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Lakers, who were hit even harder by COVID-19 with six players in protocols. Isaiah Thomas made his season debut with 19 points, Russell Westbrook scored 14 points and Kent Bazemore tied his season high with 11, but Anthony Davis left the game twice for various injuries.
“Give credit where credit is due: Minnesota had one hell of a game,” said James.
The Wolves, who beat the Lakers 107-83 in Los Angeles on Nov. 12 without James in the lineup, had a 61-36 rebound advantage – including 15-1 on the offensive glass.
“They definitely played more physical basketball tonight, and we have to be better,” said Lakers coach Frank Vogel.
Davis injured his right ankle at the end of the first quarter, came back in the second quarter, then injured his left knee in the third quarter. He did not come back. Davis, who missed two games last week with left knee pain, finished with nine points and a rebound in 20 minutes.
It didn’t matter who defended Towns. He tallied 23 points on a 9-for-14 shot in the first half, while everyone else who saw the field for either team combined 25 for 77 from the floor.
In a nationally televised game that didn’t start until 9:15 p.m., the teams missed 25 of 26 attempts by 3 points in the first quarter. Cities have provided the energy to make up for the early failures. Every time he walked over to the hoop and dropped the ball, Towns flexed his muscles and screamed in satisfaction.
The Timberwolves have resisted all charges from the Lakers. They were leading 61-47 after Vanderbilt stole the ball for James and fed Beasley for a quick dunk, only to see the visitors come back with an 11-0 push. The Timberwolves responded with an 11-0 streak, with Beasley as fuel.
“We always feel like we have enough to win. We don’t feel sorry for ourselves, ”Vogel said.
It was the first absence in Edwards’ young career, having played 100 straight games.
Edwards tallied 38 points on a 10-for-14 3-point shot in Denver on Wednesday and became the seventh player in NBA history with 2,000 points in 100 games at age 20 or under. Two of the top six, James and Carmelo Anthony, are on the Lakers.
The Lakers had Avery Bradley, Talen Horton-Tucker, Dwight Howard, Malik Monk, Kendrick Nunn and Austin Reaves in protocols. Trevor Ariza (ankle) was also unavailable.
The good thing was that they still had Westbrook after only a day of hiatus. He played the last game in Dallas on Wednesday and had to stay back until he was cleared to travel to Minnesota.
The Lakers even brought Thomas back on a 10-day contract for emergency depth, as the 5-foot-9 fan-favorite marked the official start of his 11th season in the NBA. Thomas scored 42 points in a G League game on Wednesday.
Chaudee Brown Jr. made her NBA debut and played 15 minutes.
Lakers: Bazemore didn’t score a goal in 15 minutes in the previous game and didn’t even enter the game before that. … Horton-Tucker, Howard and Monk each missed their second straight game.
Timberwolves: Taurean Prince joined Edwards in health and safety protocols. Finch said both players were asymptomatic. … Towns received the NBA’s monthly community service award for the November pre-game, in recognition of his support for homeless youth.
The Lakers are scheduled to play in Chicago on Sunday night. The Bulls, who had two games postponed this week because they had 10 players in health and safety protocols, were allowed to resume training on Saturday.
The Timberwolves host Dallas on Sunday night. The Mavericks have a rematch on Tuesday night.
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