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Wolves take it to struggling Portland, winning 116-93

One of the Timberwolves' most embarrassing losses of last season, and one that typified who that team was, came on April 2.

The Wolves were jockeying for playoff positioning to avoid the play-in tournament and had a matchup with a tanking Portland team that was sitting Damian Lillard. The Wolves lost that game, and it was still fresh in their minds headed into Friday.

As forward Jaden McDaniels put it at shootaround, "Our headlights are on."

They never turned them off in a 116-93 rout of the Trail Blazers.

The Wolves did as they should against a rebuilding and injured team (no DeAndre Ayton, Sheadon Sharpe and Robert Williams) that lost at Oklahoma City by 62 points Thursday.

With those injuries, the Trail Blazers had no size to contend with the Wolves, and the Wolves took full advantage on both ends. Rudy Gobert finished with 24 points and 17 rebounds while Karl-Anthony Towns had 23 and eight rebounds. Naz Reid added 14 off the bench.

Anthony Edwards had just nine, but the Wolves didn't need him to go full throttle on a night coach Chris Finch emptied his bench for almost the entire fourth quarter. To point guard Mike Conley, Friday continued the same type of mindset the Wolves have had against lesser opponents this season.

"It's been our approach to these games," Conley said. "It wasn't like we knew we were playing Portland last night and guys were staying up late and doing what they wanted to do and having fun. It's, 'We're playing Portland tomorrow, let's get locked in. Let's have a good shootaround.' Very businesslike, and I think that approach has helped us."

The Wolves improved to 27-11, and coming out of a 16-game stretch facing teams above .500, they have 12 games remaining against the bottom six teams in the league. That's more than a quarter of the games they have left. This renewed focus will help them stay near the top of the Western Conference standings, so long as they can take the same approach they did Friday.

"That's what we try to be all about," Finch said. "We talked a lot about how that cost us last season. There's a lot of ways to be mature and a lot of ways to be immature. Just coming out and taking care of business and getting off to the lead that we did and sticking through it for the whole game for the most part, that's the type of focus we need."

The Wolves began the night ahead 11-0 and had a balanced scoring attack from the start. Gobert, who was questionable because of left hip soreness that caused him to miss Wednesday's overtime loss at Boston, had six points and four rebounds in his first stint. Towns, who welcomed the crowd in honor of the team's Pride Night before the game, had 10 points on 3-for-3 shooting.

McDaniels' defense was stellar on budding Blazers star Anfernee Simons, who was 0-for-10 on the night for five points. The Wolves allowed Portland to get within nine in the second quarter, but they regrouped with a 15-3 run before the half and never let the Blazers back in it from there.

BOXSCORE: Wolves 116, Portland 93Sign up for our Timberwolves Update newsletter

After the game, Towns and Gobert decided they would address the media together, and were asked to assess their comfort level playing together this season on a scale of one to 10. They both responded eight or nine.

"There's room for improvement, but it's fun and we know we push each other up," Gobert said. "KAT wants to make me better and I want to make him better every single day. When you have that, I think that's what matters. We want to see each other succeed. We want to be able to win together. That's unique.

"In this league, a lot of teams have egos. I think we're both in a place in our career now where it's about winning."

Doing that against teams they should beat has made it a more enjoyable season for all involved.