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Surging Timberwolves continue home stretch vs. Magic

Dec 18, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards (1) and guard D'Angelo Russell (0) celebrate during the third quarter against the Chicago Bulls at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Timberwolves will continue a six-game homestand on Friday when they welcome the Orlando Magic to Minneapolis.

Orlando comes into Friday’s contest playing the third of four straight road games after back-to-back matchups with the 76ers in Philadelphia. The Magic split the pair, winning 119-109 on Monday behind 29 points from Paolo Banchero and 12 points with 10 assists from Markelle Fultz.

Orlando could not replicate its offensive success in the rematch on Wednesday, collectively shooting 37.9 percent from the floor in a 105-94 loss. The defeat marked the Magic’s first game failing to score at least 100 points since Dec. 18.

“It’s a make-or-miss league. Of course, we’ve got to make shots. That’s something that we work on, that we believe,” Fultz said. “We’ve got to continue to shoot the open ones, continue to make passes for each other, continue to be aggressive.”

The Magic rank fourth-to-last in the NBA in both scoring offense (110.9 points per game) and assists per game (22.6). They are also fifth-to-last in field goals made per contest at 40.0.

Since the beginning of January while playing with a more consistent lineup — Wendell Carter Jr. and Gary Harris both returned from lengthy absences just before the start of the new year — Orlando’s improved its scoring output to 113.8 points per game. The Magic have played close to .500 basketball in those 15 games since Jan. 4 despite the backslide in Philadelphia.

While Orlando looks to move to 8-8 in 2023, it must slow a Minnesota team that has been surging since the calendar turned.

The Timberwolves improved to 12-5 in 2023 with their fourth win in the last five outings, besting Golden State in overtime on Wednesday, 119-114.

D’Angelo Russell scored 29 points and shot 7 of 17 from 3-point range against his former team, including four made 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.

“Not everybody has the confidence at the end of the game to make a play and to want to make the play, too,” Russell said, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “A lot of guys want to kind of be in the shadows with it. I’m a guy that’s always wanting the ball, wanting the opportunity, no matter how big the stage is.”

Anthony Edwards scored 27 points and dished five assists. Edwards has scored at least 23 points in each of Minnesota’s last eight games — a stretch in which the Timberwolves are 6-2.

Naz Reid — making his eighth start of the season — delivered with 24 points and 13 rebounds. Reid filled in for Rudy Gobert, who was a late scratch due to groin soreness, and he both started and finished Wednesday’s win, the latter with emphasis.

Reid’s dunk after following his own missed 3-point attempt extended Minnesota’s lead to two possessions in the final nine seconds, effectively putting Golden State away.

The win marked Minnesota’s second overtime contest in as many outings, following a 118-111 loss on Monday to the Sacramento Kings.

The Timberwolves aim to complete the season sweep of the Magic, having won at Orlando 126-108 on Nov. 16.

–Field Level Media

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