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Timberwolves throttle tanking Toronto by 48 points

In a throwback to some of Minnesota’s victories from two years ago, Wednesday’s blowout of Toronto quickly turned into a funfest for Timberwolves fans at Target Center.

Numerous laps of the wave were completed in the second half of Minnesota’s 133-85 victory over the Raptors.

Toronto (23-53) — which notched its 15th consecutive loss in its quest to keep its top-six protected pick in the upcoming NBA draft — dressed just eight healthy players, many of whom aren’t traditional rotational pieces. Wednesday marked the largest loss in Raptors’ franchise history.

“Taking care of business, taking advantage of a severely depleted team. We kept growing the lead, growing the lead, growing the lead,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said. “That was the challenge at halftime, to play against our own standard. And our guys, for the most part, I thought, did a great job of that all game long.”

Minnesota jumped all over its depleted opponent from the beginning. The Wolves moved the ball brilliantly out of the gate, tallying assists on 14 of their first 16 makes. The ball movement led to more scorching shooting. The Wolves — who’ve been one of the NBA’s top shooting teams over their past 11 games — buried 20 3-pointers Wednesday on 47% shooting.

Naz Reid got that party started by hitting six of his first eight looks from deep on a night where he scored 23 points. Anthony Edwards hit five 3-pointers of his own, while Nickeil Alexander-Walker hit four and Monte Morris had three.

The scintillating shooting is a product of the offense, which has been particularly good over the past few weeks. That’s evidenced by Minnesota’s volume of open looks. Entering tonight, 57% of the Wolves’ field-goal attempts over their previous 10 bouts were either “open” or “wide open” per NBA.com’s tracking data. That’s up from 50% in all games up until Karl-Anthony Towns was injured.

“Just continue to move the ball. We knew we’d face different looks. We seem to be handling switching better now,” Finch said. “I think guys are understanding that you defeat it with the pass and the movement, rather than just the bounce.”

Edwards finished with 28 points as he utilized the contest as an opportunity to break out of his shooting funk. The 22-year-old all-star shot 10 for 23 from the field but was 5 for 12 from deep. He buried his first triple try of the night, snapping a streak of 22 straight missed 3-point attempts.

“You could see he was being extra aggressive trying to work through his issues,” Finch said. “I thought he stayed within the flow of the game. I thought there were some other plays to be made for him, but I was happy with him being that aggressive tonight for sure, no doubt.”

Edwards noted it felt good to see jumpers finally fall.

“They felt the same as (Tuesday),” said Edwards, referring to his 0 for 6 shooting from deep in the win over Houston. “Tuesday I had a couple ins and out, so I knew today was gonna be the day that they was gonna fall.”

The Wolves (53-23) shot 51% from the field. The back half of the final frame was reserved for the deep end of Minnesota’s bench. Luka Garza excited the crowd with 16 points in 10 minutes, while Leonard Miller went 2 for 2 from the field for five points.

The win, while predictable, was still pivotal for Minnesota, which pulled into a tie with Denver for the top spot in the West, and the Wolves own the tiebreak. Oklahoma City punted on its game in Boston on Wednesday, sitting its two best players in a 135-100 defeat that left the Thunder (52-24) a full game behind Minnesota with six games to play.

The Timberwolves clinched a top-four seed in the West playoffs, guaranteeing they’ll have home-court advantage in the first round of postseason play.

Josh Minott put an exclamation point on the victory with a ferocious transition slam with 15 seconds to play.

“I think it was important for us to remain professional and come out doing the right things,” Alexander-Walker said. “I think games like this are opportunism for us to build and work on things that we need to do to get better, and for everyone to get … everyone who supports, and for them to get minutes, too, have fun and get some live action.”

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