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Friday night delight: Wolves turn it on late to beat Cavaliers

Early in Friday's fourth quarter against Cleveland, Timberwolves point guard Mike Conley and big man Naz Reid exchanged three-point shots, followed by Conley's field goal and blocked shot on 6-7 Georges Niang.

Backup guard Jordan McLaughlin picked up the bouncing ball, pushed it down the floor and passed it to Reid, whose run to the rim with the ball ended with a stretching, one-handed dunk.

Time out, Cavaliers. Good night.

Suddenly, in less than two minutes, the Wolves turned a six-point halftime deficit into an 84-70 lead with nine minutes left that the Cavaliers never seriously challenged again.

When it was all over, the Wolves had won a fourth game in their last five and the sixth of their last nine after a 104-91 victory at Target Center. They also kept pace in a Western Conference race with Oklahoma City and Denver for first place.

Conley led his team with 21 points while Reid had 18 and star Anthony Edwards had 16. The Wolves had Jaden McDaniels, Jordan McLaughlin and Kyle Anderson score double figures, too.

The Wolves on Friday welcomed both Reid and Rudy Gobert back and into the starting lineup after each missed Tuesday's 115-112 home loss to rival Denver.

Edwards was listed as questionable as well, but he played on without missing a game despite a finger dislocated during an unearthly dunk in a game at Utah.

Gobert was listed as questionable because of a left rib strain but went through pregame warmups and was deemed ready to play. Naz started the game and played on despite being listed as questionable under the NBA's concussion protocol.

The two teams played their two-game season series within just two weeks, but still missing were Cleveland star Donovan Mitchell (nasal fracture) and Wolves All-Star Karl Anthony Towns (torn meniscus). The Wolves lost in overtime 113-104 two Fridays ago without coach Chris Finch, who came down ill before the game, so assistant Micah Nori coached in his absence.

Finch watched a weary Wolves team get outscored 16-7 in overtime on the second of back-to-back games that featured a last-second victory on Edwards' sensational block at the rim from behind.

Finch watched it all, without complaint.

"I have utmost trust in our staff," he said before Friday's game. "I thought they did a great job. Many of the things they did, the decision they made, I would have made anyway. No time to second guess any of that stuff. … We didn't have a lot. It was a tough back-to-back for us and we didn't play our best basketball."

Towns' lengthy injury plus Reid's recent absence has given Finch the opportunity to experiment with smaller lineups as the playoffs approach and the Wolves miss some of their size.

"The biggest thing is we continue to remain flexible whatever the game or conditions," Finch said. "I thought Kyle [Anderson] was outstanding as a small 5 [center] the other day, offensively and defensively. We have an incredibly flexible roster. I feel comfortable playing these guys in all different combinations. I think they enjoy it, too."

The Wolves led by as many as 10 points and trailed no more than five points before halftime.

By then, McLaughlin had gone 4-for-4 on three-pointers, but the Cavs rallied just before halftime and turned a 44-38 deficit with fewer than five minutes into a 49-46 lead at intermission.

The teams started the third quarter missing a player each: Cavs starting center Jarrett Allen didn't take the floor after a nine-point, nine-rebound first half because of a hand laceration, but he subbed into the game midway through the third quarter. Reid started on the bench after a 10-point first half for the Wolves and returned to action not long into the third

"We depend on him," Cleveland coach J.B. Bickerstaff said about Allen. "It can't be said enough how important he is to us, how much we lean on him on both sides of the ball. We ask him to do a lot. It's exhausting work at times. It is pretty and he doesn't get a lot of attention. It's a thankless job he does most nights, but he's invaluable for us."