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Towns, Gobert lead Wolves past Magic 113-92 in wire-to-wire victory

ORLANDO – Even after Sunday's loss to the Mavericks, veteran point guard Mike Conley could sense the Timberwolves were getting back to themselves. The schedule, the heavy travel and illnesses all combined to affect how the Wolves were playing night in and night out. To Conley, that "pop" was missing from how they had played earlier in the season.

The Wolves popped like a bag of Orville Redenbacher's in Tuesday's 113-92 win over the upstart Magic.

"We just didn't have whatever that is that gives us that little edge that we normally play with," said Conley, who had 11 points and 10 assists.

From the first possession Tuesday, the Wolves had that unquantifiable energy Conley said was lacking. They held Orlando scoreless on its first six possessions of the night. Rudy Gobert and Jaden McDaniels set the tone from those opening minutes; Gobert with his rebounding and rim protection, McDaniels with his tough on-ball defense of reigning Rookie of the Year Paolo Banchero, who had 18 points on 8-for-22 shooting.

"Just be physical and try to contest all his shots," McDaniels said. "I kind of know how he wants to play in the midrange area, so I was just using my length and being physical with him."

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That keyed one of the best defensive halves the Wolves had all season. They led 67-37 at the half as Orlando shot just 28% in the first 24 minutes. This all happened as Anthony Edwards struggled to one of his worst outputs of the season (six points, 2-for-7 shooting). The 37 points the Wolves (26-10) allowed were a season-best for a first half.

"I thought it was probably our best start of the season," Gobert said. "Just the ball pressure, the focus, the energy, the urgency from the start of the game was at a high level."

There was another side to the equation of the Wolves' strong first half. Karl-Anthony Towns and Gobert were dominant on the offensive end. Towns had 23 of his game-high 28 points in the first half, and he was a perfect 5-for-5 from three-point range. The first bucket of the game was coach Chris Finch drawing up a corner three for Towns.

Finch hopes Tuesday can lead to more looks from that part of the floor for Towns.

"Kat had been spacing the floor really well for most of the season," Finch said. "But … as the offense has broken down over the last 10 games or so, particularly the last five or six, the spacing's gone too. Everybody's — Kat's included. It's good he gets it out there and gets clean looks. Hopefully it'll entice him to get out there a little more."

BOXSCORE: Timberwolves 113, Orlando 92

Meanwhile, Gobert punished the Magic, who were without big man Franz Wagner, every time they switched a smaller player onto him. He had 21 points and 12 rebounds. Finch often says the Wolves need to take advantage of their size, to do the things teams with size should do, and punish teams when they play smaller lineups against them. Tuesday was a prototypical example of the Wolves using their size as a big advantage instead of a potential vulnerability.

That they did all this with Edwards having an off night showed the Wolves what they are capable of as a team even when their best offensive threat doesn't have it on a particular night.

"We know what we are capable of," Gobert said. "... Our biggest competition is ourselves. We know if we just do what makes us great as a team and we do that consistently, then we are a contender. But when we don't, we are an above-average team.

"Now, do we have the resilience and the maturity to do those things every night and keep doing them even when it's not cute or doing them when we start having success?"

The Wolves will have another test of those qualities Wednesday. Because of inclement weather on the East Coast, they had to stay the night in Orlando and will fly to their next game in Boston on Wednesday morning. Conley said he could only recall flying the same day of a game once in his career.

"Not looking forward to it, not gonna lie," Conley said.