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Timberwolves hold off short-handed Cavaliers for much-needed win – InForum

CLEVELAND — After three quarters of solid basketball that saw Minnesota in a good place to grab an important, much-needed win over a outnumbered Cavaliers team in Cleveland, things got tough in the final frame.

That’s the Timberwolves’ way of life right now.

In the end, Minnesota survived a poor offensive frame mixed with a 27-point blast in the fourth quarter from Cavaliers guard Darius Garland to walk away with a 129-124 win.

“In the fourth quarter there was a shot selection that started its run and obviously one guy was getting super hot. We tried a lot of different things to try and stop him,” said Timberwolves manager Chris Finch. “But I’m not here to be super picky. Good win for our boys.”

It’s true, Minnesota will take what it can get at this point. The win follows six losses in seven games. And there were many positive things to discover in the first three quarters. The greatest was the play of the much-maligned D’Angelo Russell. The starting place guard fought his way through the first 13 games of the season. But he delivered on Sunday.

Russell opened the game with a 15-point first quarter based on 6-on-6 shooting. He stayed hot throughout the competition, finishing the season with 30 points as the leading player in 11-on-13 shooting with 12 assists.

The latter was equally important for Minnesota, as the floor general’s ball motion and generosity contributed to one of the team’s best offensive performances in recent memory.

“Just playing the game, just being yourself, being aggressive, that sets the tone for us,” said Wolves center Rudy Gobert. “And it wasn’t just about him scoring. I felt like he was really smart, made the right play and found the open man. And you can tell that he is just himself and plays along with the flow of the game. It definitely sets the tone for us.”

Minnesota shot 64% from the field in the first 36 minutes. Russell cooked. Karl-Anthony Towns capitalized on his 1-on-1 match against the defensive, stalwart Evan Mobley with 29 points on 11-on-16 shooting. Towns also had 13 rebounds as he and Gobert recorded double-doubles in the same contest for the first time all season.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Cleveland Cavaliers

Minnesota guard Anthony Edwards (1) drives to the basket against Cleveland forwards Isaac Okoro (35) and Cedi Osman on Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022 in Cleveland.

Ken Blaze / USA Today Sports

Minnesota leads by up to 24 points. Everything was taking shape for a Wolves team who embarked on a snail-like start to the season.

The Cavaliers were without All-Stars Jarrett Allen and Donovan Mitchell — plus another rotation player in Dean Wade. That left Cleveland without many offensive weapons. But it still had garland.

The all-star guard went in and shot 35% from the field and 30% from deep. But as the Cavaliers’ only true offensive threat, he remained at will on Sunday. He made 16 shots in the last frame and grabbed eight of them – including six threes. He finished the game with 51 points.

“Apparently Garland was getting hot,” Gobert said. “We watch movies, but if someone gets hot, we have to take that away a little quicker. It took us a little too long to react.”

Especially on a night when Minnesota had no other options to really worry. No other Cleveland player surpassed 16 points. The Wolves compounded the problems in the final frame by becoming incoherent offensively and going off the field 7 to 21 with four turnovers while allowing the Cavaliers six offensive rebounds.

The goal certainly didn’t match the start. Cleveland was down at 17 with five minutes to go but went for two in the final minute. In the end, however, the wolves (6-8) held out. When the Cavaliers (8-5) came in and were three points down with 6.5 seconds to go, Gobert tapped away the inbounds pass for the save save.

“We stayed with it. And that’s a game that could have eluded us and we didn’t let that happen because we stayed focused,” Gobert said. “We still have some stops when we needed them and we put down our free throws. It’s a good win for us.”

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