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Timberwolves bounce back with decisive victory over Nets

Saturday's 101-86 Timberwolves victory over the Nets was a rock fight for most of the night, and very briefly threatened to turn into an actual fight toward the end of a game whose film likely won't be making the rounds at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame anytime soon.

The Wolves won without center Rudy Gobert, who sat because of a sprained ankle he suffered in Friday's loss to Milwaukee, and they won without much of a rhythm again offensively. But even without Gobert, their defense showed up and held the reeling Nets to 34% shooting.

That was enough to get by with a victory despite tired legs and sore bodies from back-to-back nights of games.

"It was not pretty," said point guard Mike Conley, who had 14 points. "It was a game where we were just trying to find any energy we could get. We needed everybody that went into that game today. Obviously, you could just tell our energy level with the way we weren't moving with the ball, weren't moving without the ball, getting back on defense. … For us to still find a way to win, that's what good teams are able to do, and we were able to do it tonight."

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Karl-Anthony Towns and his 28 points provided most of the offense throughout the night until the fourth quarter, when Anthony Edwards finally got going with 11 of his game-high 29 points. Edwards finished 11-for-23 from the field as Brooklyn's switch-heavy defense gave the Wolves problems most of the night, limiting them to 43%. But it was a night they finished a half-game ahead of Oklahoma City for first place in the Western Conference.

"We got a lot of meaningful basketball to play. Put ourselves in really good position and we got to capitalize," coach Chris Finch said. "We don't expect things to be easy, but we have to play with more purpose than we're playing right now."

They at least had purpose most of the night on the defensive end as officials let both teams play. Then Edwards hit a number of key buckets down the stretch, including a beautiful reverse layup through traffic that brought the crowd to its feet with 1 minute, 52 seconds remaining.

That made it 95-83 and let the Wolves coast to the finish line, but not without a little drama. With 23.3 seconds left and the shot clock winding down, Conley pulled the trigger on a three-pointer. After he shot it, Nets guard Dennis Schroder shoved him as he took exception with the shot. It's not often someone has a problem with the sportsmanship of four-time NBA Sportsmanship Award winner Conley.

"It's late game, he's a veteran so I know if he had to do it over again, he wouldn't take that shot," Nets interim coach Kevin Ollie said.

Jaden McDaniels came over and shoved Schroder away. A resulting brouhaha ended up with technicals for McDaniels, Schroder, Wolves guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Nets forward Dorian Finney-Smith. Conley, whose never received a technical in his career, avoided one.

"Jaden, I just told him he's my road dog now," Conley said. "He's the first one to come to my defense. I got his back from here on out."

Added McDaniels: "The shot clock was going down. Someone was going to shoot it. Any five on the court, someone was going to shoot it. Other teams be mad, I guess. Whatever happened, happened. I was just protecting Mike. It was unnecessary but I have to have my teammate's back."

BOXSCORE: Wolves 101, Brooklyn 86

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McDaniels had an impact on the floor Saturday as well in helping to limit Brooklyn forward Mikal Bridges to 15 points on 7-for-21 and knocking down two important threes in the 31-20 Wolves fourth quarter.

"Kind of give us some breathing room," Finch said. "We needed it. He's got to wake up, snap out of, he's been in a little funk. Hopefully he can carry this into the next game."

The Wolves are hoping to carry that fourth quarter going forward, because even though Saturday's game was a victory, they now have two subpar performances out of the All-Star break. Their offense, which is predicated on rhythm, has been out of sync.

"You just kind of have to build yourself back up this first week from All-Star break, and we'll continue to do that," Conley said.