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Timberwolves have a few potential No. 2 scoring options in Karl-Anthony Towns’ absence

The Timberwolves’ road win Tuesday over the Los Angeles Clippers certainly starred guard Anthony Edwards. He was the catalyst for Minnesota’s massive comeback, with his offensive aggression changing the tone of the game.

But not to be overlooked were the Timberwolves’ other major offensive contributors. Those primarily came from the backcourt in Los Angeles, as Nickeil Alexander-Walker scored 28 points on 9-for-10 shooting. And Mike Conley splashed five triples in a 23-point outing.

With Karl-Anthony Towns likely sidelined for the remainder of the regular season, Minnesota will need to find consistent scoring alongside Edwards down the stretch run if it’s to stay in the race for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.

A few names have emerged to step into that role on any given night.

Naz Reid

Reid is the one everyone looks to as a de facto Towns replacement given the two play the same position and possess similar skill sets. Reid has indeed stepped into a scoring role twice since Towns went down, scoring 34 against Cleveland and 25 against the Lakers.

“I think he’s taken advantage of this opportunity. He’s a super talented player. For the time he’s been in the league, I think he hasn’t had the opportunity to truthfully show it in a big minutes perspective,” point guard Mike Conley told reporters after the loss to the Lakers. “He’s getting that opportunity, and he’s another guy we can lean on. A fully healthy team with him coming off the bench, it’s pretty scary. This is a good run for him. We’re happy with what he’s doing, and hopefully this keeps going.”

When Reid’s 3-point shot is falling at the rate it has been of late, the big man is difficult to defend with his floor spacing opponents must respect, which opens Reid up to attack closeouts and make plays in the paint.

Reid has always been someone who takes advantage of increased opportunities. In 17 career games when the reserve has played 30-plus minutes, he is averaging 21 points and 8.9 rebounds while shooting 52 percent from the floor and 40 percent from deep.

Mike Conley

Tuesday’s game was, stunningly, the first time all season Conley has topped 20 points.

The veteran floor general has made a point all season to be a catalyst for ball movement, even at the expense of getting his own shot. But he has noted since the all-star break that he needs to ramp up his offensive aggression for the good of the team’s overall offense.

Those comments came even before Towns went down. Now, Conley can’t hesitate to pull the trigger on good looks. He needs to establish himself as a legitimate threat to score to ease the burden on Edwards and, after Conley hits a few shots, open the floor for others by demanding attention from opponents.

Conley is shooting 43 percent from deep this season, and his pick-and-roll game with center Rudy Gobert is one of Minnesota’s most repeatable offensive actions to generate consistent looks. After the win over the Clippers, Wolves coach Chris Finch told Conley he needs the point guard to continue to be aggressive.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker

The wing has primarily been known for his enhanced defensive prowess. But his offense isn’t to be overlooked. Alexander-Walker is shooting 51 percent from deep in March and has made multiple triples in five of Minnesota’s seven games this month.

That outside threat is something the Timberwolves need with Towns, the team’s best shooter, out of the lineup. But as Alexander-Walker showed Tuesday, he also is a legitimate threat going to the rim when he’s aggressive on the attack.

“Nickeil has been awesome. This last month or so he’s been lights out. He’s found a great role with our team, and he knows when to be aggressive, he knows how to stay within himself for what we want for him and our team,” Conley told reporters after the win over the Clippers. “And we’ll just keep building with him, because he’s got a lot of room to just keep getting better and better and growing, so I’m excited for him.”

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