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Wizards run past T'Wolves, 135-121
At this point in the season, every win is critical for the Wizards. They’re even more critical on a night like Sunday, when a team in front of Washington in the race for a playoff spot (Orlando in this case), drops a game. Bobby Portis’ double-double (26 points, 11 rebounds) led seven double-figure scorers to help the Wizards inch closer to the No. 8 seed as they cruised past the Timberwolves in D.C., 135-121.
Bradley Beal (22 points, eight assists, seven rebounds), Jabari Parker (22 points, six rebounds), and Trevor Ariza (16 points) led the rest of the Washington scorers, who made the 3-point shot their biggest weapon against Karl-Anthony Towns (28 points) and the paint-focused T-Wolves. Minnesota outscored the Wizards by 12 down low (the teams tied in the rebounding department), but Washington hit seven more 3-pointers on the night, making it hard to for the Wolves to catch up.
Another critical victory for the Wizards came in offensive rebounding, where they gained a seven-point advantage in second-chance scoring on the night. That started in the first quarter, where 15 second chance points helped get the Wizards off to a 40-36 lead in a high-scoring first quarter.
“I think we got off to a decent start," said Jabari Parker. "The starting five did a really good job getting us to good energy, especially starting the first and the third quarter. Me specifically, just trying not to think and try and challenge myself to do more.”
Minnesota climbed back in the second quarter, led by 11 points from Towns. It was the lone frame in which Washington struggled from 3-point range, making the T-Wolves’ high-percentage looks count. Minnesota shot 52% from the field in the frame to take a two-point lead into the halftime break.
Washington only committed nine turnovers on the night (allowing just seven points off miscues) and shot 50% from the field. That efficiency started to pay off in the third quarter, when Parker and Portis combined for 19 points in the frame to lead the charge as the Wizards created some space. They used seven Minnesota turnovers in the third to ultimately ignite a 14-4 run near the end of the quarter to help take a 10-point lead into the final 12 minutes.
"We talked about that at halftime," said head coach Scott Brooks of the defensive uptick. "Came out and stepped up in that third quarter and guarded the paint and played much better defensively, even the fourth quarter. We gave up 30 points but I thought they gave up about six or seven late in the game. But it's the paint, guarding the paint and nailed the attack in transition.”
Another critical run came in the middle of the fourth after the Timberwolves had cut the lead back down to five. A 10-0 Washington outburst led by six points from Sam Dekker (11 points on the night) gave the Wizards a 15-point lead with just 4:35 to play. It proved to be the knockout punch, as Washington’s lead never dwindled below 13 points for the remainder of the game.
With 19 games to play, the Wizards now sit three games out of a playoff spot, with the Magic, Hornets and Heat still standing in their way in a virtual tie for the eighth seed. Next for Washington is another home date hosting the Mavericks on Wednesday night. Tip-off against Dallas is set for 7:00 P.M. ET