Timberwolves, Magic meet with eye on the future

Minnesota Timberwolves coach Chris Finch wants his team to finish strong despite its record.

Finch continued to see those signs from his team despite losing 121-112 on Friday night to the playoff-bound Miami Heat.

On the second of three stops during their final road trip of the season, the Timberwolves (20-47) will face another team rebuilding for the future when they take on the Orlando Magic (21-46) on Sunday night.

The Magic led into the third quarter before losing to the playoff-contending Charlotte Hornets, 122-112 on Friday night. Orlando’s young core continued to play well though as Dwayne Bacon scored a career-high 28 points and Mo Bamba had a career-high 18 rebounds for the Magic while Cole Anthony had 22 points.

But the Hornets could not overcome the Magic’s 68 points in the paint.

“We actually had pretty good individual defense, but our high pick-and-roll defense was a real problem area,” Magic coach Steve Clifford said.

Minnesota has lost its past three games, but two of those defeats came by four points. Before that, the Wolves had enjoyed one of their best stretches of the season, winning four in a row and picking up six wins in an eight-game span.

Against the Heat, the Wolves surged ahead early, but lost their lead by the third quarter and let frustration boil over. Minnesota was hit with five technical fouls for the game, and D’Angelo Russell was ejected after drawing two with 4:35 left in the third quarter.

“It was very frustrating out there for everybody, certainly in a white uniform,” Finch said. “We tried to play through it the best we could. Obviously, we lost our cool a little bit, and understandably so.”

Karl-Anthony Towns scored 14 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter while rookie Anthony Edwards had 25 points.

Edwards continues to look like a vital piece of the Timberwolves’ future. Over the past 11 games, Minnesota is 6-5 and Edwards has averaged 23.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game while shooting 47.7 percent including 36.8 percent from 3-point range.

“No matter what the standings say, no matter how many games are left, we’re out here trying to build something great,” Towns said.

Clifford said he’s been encouraged with what he’s seen from Bamba on the boards lately.

Bamba, who is averaging 5.8 rebounds this season, is averaging 10.4 rebounds over his past 10 games. His scoring numbers are also up, averaging 12 points over that span.

“Run both ways consistently so you can anchor the defense and go after every rebound and develop a pick-and-roll game where you can roll, you can flare and you can short flare,” Clifford said. “I think those are attainable things (for him).”

Minnesota was missing Malik Beasley (Grade 3 left hamstring strain), Jarrett Culver (right ankle surgery) and Jaden McDaniels (personal reasons) against Miami.

Orlando’s injury list remains extensive with Wendell Carter Jr. (left eye abrasion), Michael Carter-Williams (sprained left ankle), James Ennis III (sore right calf), Markelle Fultz (torn left ACL), Jonathan Isaac (left knee), Chuma Okeke (sprained left ankle), Otto Porter Jr. (left foot) and Terrence Ross (back spasms) out against Charlotte.

–Field Level Media

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