Rubio, Towns carry Timberwolves past Lakers
(TSX / STATS) -- MINNEAPOLIS -- Ricky Rubio is giving opponents something new to worry about -- his shooting.
Rubio totaled a career-high 33 points and added 10 assists, while Karl-Anthony Towns scored 32 points as the road-weary Minnesota Timberwolves returned home and recorded a 119-104 victory against the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday.
Andrew Wiggins added 27 points for Minnesota, which won for the seventh time in its past 10 home games. Gorgui Dieng finished with 11 points, a season-high 15 rebounds and six assists for the Timberwolves (30-44), who exceeded last season's win total.
Long regarded as a dazzling playmaker but poor shooter, Rubio has found consistency in his shot and become a legitimate scorer in the season's second half. Since the All-Star break, Rubio is averaging 16.8 points, 10.6 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game while shooting 46.5 percent from the field and 43.8 percent from 3-point territory.
"I'm filled with a lot of confidence," Rubio said. "I think the experience is paying off and the work that I put into it, too. It feels good. Starting the season I wasn't feeling that good and now I feel the best I've ever felt."
With Rubio knocking down shots, including 4 of 5 from 3-point range on Thursday, opponents have to account for Rubio and can't provide help on Towns and Wiggins.
"Ricky -- who I think is a very, very good player and I'm a big fan of his game he's more of a facilitator," Los Angeles coach Luke Walton said. "We let him get comfortable. We let him get hot early on and then he's obviously capable of doing what he did once that's the case.
Jordan Clarkson led the Lakers with 18 points, and Julius Randle added 12 points and 13 rebounds. D'Angelo Russell was held to 14 points on 4-of-14 shooting as the Lakers (21-54) lost for the 17th time in 19 games.
The Wolves were feeling good earlier this month after home wins against the Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors and Washington Wizards. Then they went on a grueling stretch playing six of seven games on the road and lost six games during that span before Rubio's three free throws gave them a 115-114 win at Indiana Tuesday.
"I wish we could fight for the playoff right now," Rubio said. "That's what I came here for. I hope we can build from here and finally take off next season."
Rubio played a big role in the wins against the Clippers, Warriors and Wizards and started the Wolves well Thursday.
The point guard scored 20 by halftime and Towns totaled 21 points as Minnesota held a 67-60 lead.
"It's big," Towns said of Rubio's shooting. "When he's doing something like that, it adds so much value to the game."
Minnesota's defense was better in the second half as the Wolves led by as many as 15. Los Angeles hit just 31.6 percent from the field in the third after shooting 54.5 percent in the first half.
Los Angeles was within 82-75 on a 3-pointer by Russell with 4:21 left in the third but Minnesota pushed the lead to 96-82 entering the fourth.
"It was tough," Randle said. "Some things just didn't go our way. Obviously, Rubio made shots. They made shots and they fed off of it. It was hard. We kept battling for the most part. We can still be better, but it's hard."
NOTES: Los Angeles C Ivica Zubac left early in the first quarter with a right high ankle sprain and did not return to the game. The team announced preliminary X-rays were negative. ... Lakers rookie F Brandon Ingram missed his missed his third consecutive game due to right patellar tendinitis. ... Timberwolves PG Ricky Rubio hit two technical free throws, extending his NBA-leading streak to 48 straight made technical free throws. Rubio had made 43 straight free throws overall before a fourth-quarter miss. ... Wolves F Andrew Wiggins surpassed Christian Laettner for seventh on the franchise's all-time scoring list with 4,769 points. ... The Lakers return home but are the road team for a game Saturday against the Clippers. Minnesota hosts Sacramento on Saturday.
Updated March 31, 2017
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