Minnesota Timberwolves: Player grades from win over Lakers

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 24: Karl-Anthony Towns #32 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 24: Karl-Anthony Towns #32 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

The Minnesota Timberwolves won their third-straight game as they pulled away from the Los Angeles Lakers in the fourth quarter on Thursday night at Staples Center.

105. 20. 120. 86. Final

After sweeping a home-and-home against the Phoenix Suns, the Minnesota Timberwolves’ schedule began to get progressively harder with a visit to Los Angeles on Thursday night to face the LeBron James-less Lakers.

The early stages of the game were marred by another edition of foul trouble for Karl-Anthony Towns, which allowed the Lakers to take a three-point lead into halftime.

But after the Lakers took a seven-point lead midway through the third quarter, the rest of the second half was dominated first by Towns and then by Andrew Wiggins, who took turns acting as the best player on the floor as the Wolves vaulted over the Lakers and kept them at arm’s length.

Towns was great in the post, making tough shots through contact and passing deftly around double-teams. He also shot 3-of-5 from beyond the arc and was a force in the paint on defense.

Derrick Rose played 12 first half minutes before heading to the locker room with ankle soreness and missing the entire second half. That meant that Jerryd Bayless was the only true point guard remaining, and he delivered.

Bayless scored 16 points and dished out eight assists in 30 minutes, and Jared Terrell played admirably in a nine-minute stint as the backup. After the Lakers trimmed the lead to two points late in the fourth quarter, Terrell helped key a run that extended a lead that would never be relinquished.

Let’s talk player grades.

Outside of early foul trouble, Karl-Anthony Towns was dominant. He ended up with 27 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, two blocks, and a steal and only needed 31 minutes to do it. Yet another game in which KAT was the best player on the floor.. C. Minnesota Timberwolves. KARL-ANTHONY TOWNS. A

B. Andrew Wiggins started the game by shooting just 2-for-9 from the field in the first quarter. While he finished only 9-of-23 for 23 points, he had an impressive stretch early in the fourth quarter that included an offensive rebound and tip-slam of his own miss and a deep 3-pointer late in the shot clock. Wiggins was key to this win, despite his overall inefficiency.. G/F. Minnesota Timberwolves. ANDREW WIGGINS

Minnesota Timberwolves. TAJ GIBSON. A+. Taj Gibson was his usual solid self, being in the right place at the right time for easy buckets in and around the paint and rebounding the ball impressively on both ends of the floor, grabbing six offensive rebounds and four on the defensive end to go along with 14 points on seven shots.. PF

G/F. Minnesota Timberwolves. JOSH OKOGIE. B-. Josh Okogie once again played a team-high in minutes, logging 39 in this one. He shot a hideous 2-of-14 from the field and 0-of-7 from beyond the arc, but remained aggressive on both ends of the floor and knocked down all five of his free throw attempts. It was far from Okogie’s best game, but he was still an important part of the win.

B+. Jerryd Bayless had another inefficient shooting night, but his willingness to launch from deep and overall activity has a positive effect on the Timberwolves. Bayless was third on the team in scoring with 16 points (6-15 FG, 3-8 3P, 1-1 FT), and dished out eight assists. With Tyus Jones not with the team due to injury and Rose re-injuring his ankle on Thursday, Bayless will be counted on in a big way on Friday in Salt Lake City.. PG. Minnesota Timberwolves. JERRYD BAYLESS

JARED TERRELL. A+. Jared Terrell had only played in four career NBA games prior to Thursday in L.A. He was forced into action at the backup point guard spot after Rose’s injury, and scored 10 points in just nine minutes including hitting a pair of big 3-pointers and a tough reverse layup with the game still in question. For a rookie from Rhode Island on a two-way contract who hadn’t played particularly well in his previous NBA action, this was a fantastic performance.. G. Minnesota Timberwolves

A. Interim head coach Ryan Saunders gave four first-half minutes to Anthony Tolliver, who grabbed two rebounds and didn’t attempt a shot. In the second half, Saunders gave those minutes to Luol Deng. Deng was fantastic, immediately hitting a corner 3-pointer at a crucial moment and converting a dunk in the open floor.. F. Minnesota Timberwolves. LUOL DENG

The rest of the players

Rose was solid in the first half prior to his injury. Dario Saric had four points and six rebounds in 20 minutes before leaving with a bloody mouth following an elbow from JaVale McGee, who was called for a Flagrant-1 foul.

Gorgui Dieng also had a good night with four points, six rebounds, and two assists in 15 minutes. Tolliver’s four minutes were uneventful, and Keita Bates-Diop played the final minute in relief of Towns — another easy way of building trust and providing relief for Towns that Saunders’ predecessor generally didn’t partake in.

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What’s Next?

The Timberwolves turn around and take on the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City at 8 p.m. CT on Friday night. It’s the front-end of another home-and-home for the Wolves, who will host the Jazz at Target Center on Sunday.