Stephen Curry returned from a hand injury with 18 points as the Golden State Warriors eased past the struggling Detroit Pistons 102-86 on Tuesday.

The Warriors led 66-38 at half-time with Klay Thompson continuing the progress in his return from long-term injury by top scoring with a season-high 21 points. Thompson had 17 points by half-time.

Thompson was playing his fourth game back after returning earlier this month following a 941-day layoff due to Achilles and ACL injuries.

Curry had four three-pointers among his 18 points along with three rebounds and eight assists, while top 10 pick Jonathan Kuminga started and had 12 points and 10 rebounds.

The Warriors had lost 119-99 to the Minnesota Timberwolves without Curry on Sunday but improve to 32-12 to be second in the west behind the Phoenix Suns (34-9).

 

TOWNS LEADS ROAD WIN

Karl-Anthony Towns scored 20 points to lead the Minnesota Timberwolves to a 112-110 road win over the New York Knicks.

Towns had 20 points with five rebounds and three assists, while 2020 NBA Draft first pick Anthony Edwards had 21 points, three rebounds and three assists.

The Timberwolves center made a clutch two-pointer to put his side up 110-109 with 29.3 seconds left.

Minnesota won with a 26-19 final quarter, despite Julius Randle's (21 points, nine rebounds and nine assists) big second half for the Knicks with Evan Fournier (27 points, four rebounds and four assists) contributing well.

LeBron James hurt his ankle but played on as the Los Angeles Lakers were humbled by the in-form Phoenix Suns 108-88 led by Devin Booker with 24 points on Tuesday.

The Lakers had a major injury scare, with All-Star forward Anthony Davis already sidelined, after James rolled his left ankle driving to the basket in the third quarter, leaving him punching the floor.

The four-time MVP soldiered on, finishing with 34 points and seven rebounds, but spent the final few minutes on the bench as the Lakers were brushed aside by the Suns who improve to 25-5.

Phoenix have four straight and won six of their past seven games, having started the season 1-3. The Suns had seven different players in double figures on Tuesday.

Booker starred in his second game back after a hamstring injury with 24 points including six three-pointers, along with nine rebounds and seven assists. Suns center Deandre Ayton had 19 points and 11 rebounds.

Talen Horton-Tucker had a nightmare game for the Lakers, shooting one of 13 from the field and none of eight from beyond the arc, while Russell Westbrook had 22 points and 10 rebounds but also seven turnovers.

 

Lillard's heroics in vain as Blazers lose

Damian Lillard's 39 points, including six triples, were not enough to lift the Portland Trail Blazers past the New Orleans Pelicans, going down 111-97. Brandon Ingram finished with 28 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, while Jonas Valanciunas had 10 points with 16 rebounds.

Jalen Brunson stepped up in Luka Doncic's absence with 28 points including three triples in the Dallas Mavericks' 114-102 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Karl-Anthony Towns scored 26 points with 12 rebounds and seven assists for the Wolves.

Julius Randle had 21 points and 11 rebounds as the New York Knicks overcame the Detroit Pistons 105-91.

 

Brogdon injured as Pacers burnt by Heat

The Indiana Pacers' starting five combined for a measly 46 points in their 125-96 defeat to the Miami Heat. The Pacers were not helped by a sore right Achilles to Malcolm Brogdon which forced him off after eight minutes.

The Minnesota Timberwolves have been on the floor of the NBA for what feels like forever.

It has been 17 seasons since the Wolves last won a playoff series, tied with the Charlotte Hornets/Bobcats and Sacramento Kings for the longest active streaks in the league.

Since the 2005-06 season, Minnesota have had just one winning season, tied with the Kings for the fewest in the NBA over that span. All of this losing comes despite having talented players and valuable assets on the roster over the past 15 seasons, chiefly Kevin Garnett, Kevin Love, Jimmy Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Al Jefferson.

Time and again, Minnesota have underperformed their talent and remained irrelevant, even by small-market standards.

Yet this season has provided a glimmer of hope for the future – and perhaps the present – if the Timberwolves' front office can choose the correct path.

Minnesota turned the calendar from November to December with an 11-10 record after last year's team needed 45 games to get their 11th win of the season.

This month, however, the Wolves have lost four straight, and other than an 8-3 stretch from November 12 to November 30, the team are just 3-11, leaving many to question whether Minnesota are genuinely improved or simply had a nice three-week stretch.

The performance on the defensive end of the floor has much better than last season's by almost any measure. Opponents are scoring an average of 8.9 points per game fewer against the Wolves this season compared to last season's Western Conference-worst mark of 117.7.

 

Even adjusting for pace, the numbers seem to show improvement defensively. Minnesota are allowing 105.6 points per 100 possessions, far better than last season's mark of 112.1.

The Timberwolves' improvements in opponents' shooting have been nearly as pronounced, allowing 44.5 per cent conversion from the floor and 33.3 per cent from three-point range, both representing the largest improvements in the West.

Additionally, Minnesota are forcing a league-leading 17.3 turnovers per game, although that aggression has led to a league-high 22.7 personal fouls per game and NBA-most 24.3 opponents' free throw attempts per game.

The T-Wolves have converted defense into offense, boasting a top-10 transition offense and playing at the third-fastest pace in the NBA, getting up an average of 92.4 shot attempts per game. The halfcourt efficiency, however, has been middling at best.

Despite improved numbers from Towns and second-year sensation Anthony Edwards, Minnesota have seen their shooting drop both overall and from three-point range.

Launching 42.3 three-point attempts per game – second only to the Utah Jazz (42.7) in the league this season – the Wolves rank just 23rd in three-point percentage at 33.6, making them extremely volatile on offense.

The saving grace on offense has been offensive rebounding, with the T-Wolves grabbing a league-leading 13.4 offensive boards per game and converting those into 16.8 second-chance points per game, trailing only the Memphis Grizzlies' 16.9.

Ultimately, the limiting factor to Minnesota's playoff hopes may be a lack of depth in offensive talent. Towns, Edwards and point guard D'Angelo Russell are the highest-scoring trio in the West at 65.0 points per game, but the team as a whole have the 24th-most efficient offense in the league, scoring 104.2 points per 100 possessions.

These polarising results leave the Timberwolves' front office in a bind as it prepares for the future and as the league's trade deadline comes into view.

The team are currently on pace to qualify for the West's play-in tournament while Towns is still just 26 and Edwards is a green 20 years old. It would be perfectly reasonable to play this season out, acquire more young talent in the draft and build towards the future.

But disgruntled Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons has been linked to Minnesota in trade talks by a variety of media outlets, indicating that the Wolves' front office could have designs on evading the play-in tournament entirely and making a run at a top-six seed.

The Sixers have remained adamant that they will accept nothing less than a king's ransom for the 25-year-old point guard, but analysts have drawn up plenty of potential three- and four-team deals that would land Simmons in Minneapolis as a bet on top-flight prospect talent.

Many teams would avoid such a risk, especially after Simmons' turbulent offseason and oft-criticised postseason performances, but Minnesota – with their small market and cold climate – have a famously difficult time improving their roster through free agency. Towns, Anthony and Simmons were each the top overall draft pick in their respective classes and uniting them would be an aggressive bet on talent and potential.

Simmons, an infamously non-willing shooter from anywhere outside the paint, would likely represent a double-down approach on the Wolves' unconventional style of play, banking on more defense, turnovers and offensive rebounds while ignoring the need for an elite shot-creator.

The current core of the Timberwolves, however, has provided some reason for optimism, and the opportunity for a rare playoff run may be too much to resist for Minnesota's front office, long deprived of postseason revenue.

The Wolves' schedule is brutal over the next 12 games – seven of which are on the road against West opponents – and their performance over that stretch could determine the path of the team going forward.

Perhaps leaders in Minneapolis will see an 8-3 run in November as a promising blip on the radar for a rebuilding squad, but a win-starved franchise in a small market could be compelled to invest heavily in the present, banking on three number one picks.

Karl-Anthony Towns posted a single-word explicit tweet apparently in response to the Minnesota Timberwolves' decision to fire Gersson Rosas.

The Timberwolves parted company with Rosas on Wednesday after just over two years with the NBA team as president of basketball operations.

Reports said Rosas was holding meetings within the organisation as recently as Wednesday morning, meaning his dismissal prompted shock throughout the team – including from two-time All-Star Towns.

Owner Glen Taylor said: "As an organisation, we remain committed to building a winning team that our fans and city can be proud of."

Taylor is in the process of selling the team, with Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore set to arrive.

The Timberwolves have played only one postseason series since 2004 and showed few signs of progress on the court with Rosas at the helm.

As well as Towns, Minnesota have 2020 first overall pick Anthony Edwards on their roster, but a big front office restructure comes as a surprise as training camp approaches.

A wild game saw Giannis Antetokounmpo leave after less than one minute of play and Kevin Porter Jr. drop 50 points as the Houston Rockets won 143-136 over the Milwaukee Bucks. 

Milwaukee's Greek star left the game after just 46 seconds with a sprained right ankle suffered when he stepped on Kelly Olynyk's foot on a drive to the basket. 

Though Khris Middleton scored 33, Bryn Forbes a career-high 30 off the bench, and Jrue Holiday 29 for Milwaukee, it was not enough to overcome the loss of Antetokounmpo amid an unexpected scoring onslaught from the Rockets (16-47), who rallied after trailing by 17 in the first half.

The 20-year-old Porter poured in a career-high 50 and added 11 assists, becoming the fourth-youngest player in NBA history to score 50 in a game. Brandon Jennings, Devin Booker and LeBron James (twice) are the only younger players to do it. 

Porter's previous career high was 30 points, set last year as a rookie. 

Porter was not alone in his heroics, either, as Christian Wood added 31 points and Olynyk contributed 24 along with 13 rebounds. 

Despite the loss, the Bucks remain comfortably in the third slot in the Eastern Conference at 38-24 with 10 games to play.

 

Warriors fall to streaking Timberwolves

The Golden State Warriors watched their hopes of avoiding the play-in tournament continue to fade with a 126-114 loss at the suddenly hot Minnesota Timberwolves.

Ricky Rubio (26 points), Anthony Edwards (25) and Karl-Anthony Towns (22) combined to help Minnesota with their fourth successive game despite 37 points from Stephen Curry, who made only 11 of 27 from the field (six of 17 three-pointers). 

Golden State (31-32) are three games up on the New Orleans Pelicans for the 10th and final play-in spot but have little chance of finishing in the top six in the west. 

Kevin Durant scored 30 of his 42 points in the second half and added 10 assists as the Brooklyn Nets won their fourth game in a row, 130-113 over the Indiana Pacers. 

The Denver Nuggets also won their fourth in succession, beating the Toronto Raptors 121-111 behind 23 points from Michael Porter Jr. 

Tim Hardaway Jr. had a career-best 42 points in the Dallas Mavericks' 115-105 win over the Detroit Pistons.

 

Love struggles

The Oklahoma City Thunder went right back to their losing ways after snapping a 14-game skid on Tuesday, falling 109-95 to the New Orleans Pelicans while shooting just 38.2 per cent from the field as a team. Luguentz Dort was OKC's top scorer with 17 points. 

 

KAT to the hole

Karl-Anthony Towns brushed aside the Warriors defense to drive the lane for a jam in Minnesota's big win.

 

Thursday's results

Dallas Mavericks 115-105 Detroit Pistons
Brooklyn Nets 130-113 Indiana Pacers
Houston Rockets 143-136 Milwaukee Bucks
Minnesota Timberwolves 126-114 Golden State Warriors
New Orleans Pelicans 109-95 Oklahoma City Thunder
Denver Nuggets 121-111 Toronto Raptors

 

Jazz at Suns

With playoff berths already clinched, the top two teams in the Western Conference will jockey for the top seed as the Utah Jazz (45-17) visit the Phoenix Suns (44-18).

The star-studded Brooklyn Nets clinched a place in the NBA playoffs after rallying past the lowly Toronto Raptors 116-103.

Nets superstar Kevin Durant posted 17 points – including seven in the fourth quarter – and 10 rebounds, while team-mate Jeff Green had 22 points as Brooklyn became the first team in the Eastern Conference to secure a postseason berth on Tuesday.

The Nets trailed 90-84 early in the final period but used a 16-2 run to seize control, with Durant sealing the result with a three-pointer less than two minutes from the end in Tampa, Florida.

Brooklyn (42-20) – riding a three-game winning streak – are one and a half games clear of the Philadelphia 76ers (40-21) in the east.

Damian Lillard reached a career milestone and Anfernee Simons made his first nine three-point attempts as the Portland Trail Blazers snapped a five-game losing streak with a 133-112 rout of the Indiana Pacers.

Simons became the first NBA player to open with nine in a row from beyond the arc since Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors hit 10 straight to start a January 2019 game. 

Portland's Simons did miss his final three-point attempt but still led the Trail Blazers (33-28) with 27 points off the bench as the team made 20 three-pointers overall. 

Lillard (23 points) hit only six of 14 from the field, but one of those shots was significant. His third of four three-pointers gave him 2,000 for his career, making him the 10th player in history to hit that mark. 

The All-Star achieved the feat in his 670th career game, second only to Stephen Curry's 597 among that group.

 

Doncic, Mavericks run away from Warriors

A meeting of NBA superstars fizzled as Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks roared past Curry and the Warriors in the first half on the way to a 133-103 blowout. Doncic had 39 points in only 28 minutes, adding eight assists and six rebounds to outplay Curry (27 points, two assists). Golden State led 12-11 early in the game, but Dallas scored the next 28 points to put it out of reach early. The Mavericks' 28-0 run was the longest since the New York Knicks did the same to the Raptors in November 2017. 

Two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo did it all for the Milwaukee Bucks, posting 29 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists in a 114-104 win against the Charlotte Hornets.

The Oklahoma City Thunder avoided unwanted history, snapping a 14-game skid by upstaging the Boston Celtics 119-115. A 15th consecutive loss would have set a franchise record for the Thunder, who were led by Luguentz Dort (24 points) and Darius Bazley (21 points and 10 rebounds). Jaylen Brown had 39 points and 11 rebounds for the Celtics.

 

Celtics crumble again

The Celtics fell to their third successive defeat as they try to avoid the Eastern Conference play-in tournament. Boston made only 19 of 55 shots from the field (34.5 per cent). The home loss dropped the Celtics (32-30) into a tie with the Miami Heat for sixth place. While Boston hold the tie-breaker advantage for now, the teams will face each other twice in the final five games of the season.

While the Nets clinched, Kyrie Irving struggled. The All-Star was just three-for-13 shooting, making just one of five three-pointers for nine points in 35 minutes.

 

Towns gets style points for Timberwolves

Karl-Anthony Towns led the Minnesota Timberwolves to their third win in a row with 31 points in a 114-107 victory over the Houston Rockets highlighted by a breakaway jam.

 

Tuesday's results

Oklahoma City Thunder 119-115 Boston Celtics
Milwaukee Bucks 114-104 Charlotte Hornets
Portland Trail Blazers 133-112 Indiana Pacers
Brooklyn Nets 116-103 Toronto Raptors
Minnesota Timberwolves 114-107 Houston Rockets
Dallas Mavericks 133-103 Golden State Warriors

 

Clippers at Suns

Two of the top three teams in the Western Conference meet on Wednesday as Paul George and the Los Angeles Clippers (43-20) face Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns (43-18).

This has not been a fun season for the Minnesota Timberwolves, who remain at the foot of the Western Conference.

Karl-Anthony Towns and D'Angelo Russell have both missed extended periods and the team have a miserable 10-32 record, the worst in the entire NBA.

But three of those wins have come since the All-Star break, a period in which the T-Wolves are actually operating at .500.

They were 1-2 over the past week but faced a daunting schedule and appear to belatedly have some cause for optimism.

Rookie Anthony Edwards is finally cooking and leads our NBA Heat Check for March 15-21, powered by Stats Perform data.
 

RUNNING HOT...

Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns

If this young Minnesota team is to develop into a competitive NBA outfit, they need to have both guard Edwards and center Towns fit and firing. That was belatedly the case last week.

Edwards, the first overall pick in the 2020 draft, hinted at what was to come at the end of the previous week when he put up 34 points in a win over the Portland Trail Blazers, a career-best tally at that stage.

The benchmark was swiftly raised higher, though, as he followed up 29 points against the Los Angeles Lakers with 42 in a victory at the Phoenix Suns. That was a new T-Wolves rookie record and made Edwards the third-youngest NBA player ever to put up 40 points, after LeBron James and Kevin Durant.

The 19-year-old was not alone in passing 40 either, with Towns contributing 41 in only the second ever Minnesota game to feature two 40-point performances.

Towns' weekly average of 31.3 points - up on his prior seasonal tally of 21.8 - provided a timely reminder of his talents, while Edwards - up from 15.6 to 27.3 - will hope he has set a new standard with Rookie of the Year honours perhaps now in his sights, the race blown open by LaMelo Ball's injury.

Luka Doncic

The ROTY chase followed the same trend as the MVP hunt, with Joel Embiid and LeBron James both facing spells on the sidelines and encouraging other contenders. Doncic is not among the frontrunners quite yet, but do not bet against the Dallas Mavericks sensation.

Doncic headed into last week having missed two of the Mavs' prior four games, scoring 22 and 21 points in two wins when he did feature. By the Slovenian's lofty standards, this was a lean spell.

The 22-year-old point guard was soon back to his best, though. He averaged 35.5 points across the subsequent four games, with 42 against the Los Angeles Clippers a clear high point.

Doncic made 5.5 threes per game from 11.5 attempts for 47.8 per cent, a mark that would across the whole season rank him fourth in the league.

Joe Ingles

One of the three players with a better three-point percentage is Utah Jazz forward Ingles, who is shooting 49 per cent from beyond the arc after a week in which that figure was boosted considerably.

Having made 2.4 threes across his first 34 games of the season, Ingles converted an outstanding 5.7 over the next three.

His weekly points per game return was a hugely impressive 22.3 - up 11 on his prior average - after a career-high 34 points against the Washington Wizards, the only game the Jazz have lost this season with Ingles in the lineup.
 

GOING COLD...

Gordon Hayward and Malik Monk

Ball's injury brought a miserable end to a tough week for the Charlotte Hornets, in which they started with a win over the Sacramento Kings before losing three straight.

And Ball will be an even bigger miss than already feared if Hayward and Monk perform as they did over those four games.

Hayward started strongly but scored seven on back-to-back nights and averaged 14 points for the week, while Monk saw his minutes cut and contributed just six points per game - including none at the Lakers - as he made only two of nine threes.

Stephen Curry

Curry is another who might not be a million miles away from the MVP race, but he is trending in the wrong direction.

The Golden State Warriors great has had 62- and 57-point games this season, yet his average for the year is down to 29 after scoring 22.5 per game in meetings with the Lakers and the Houston Rockets last week.

Curry, who made six of 18 threes, then missed consecutive games with a tailbone injury.

While a slight decline in scoring is not a huge concern for the Warriors, they certainly need their main man healthy.

Trae Young

The Atlanta Hawks are enjoying a superb eight-game winning streak, but their leading scorer actually endured a tougher week shooting the basketball.

With 34 assists across three games, Young averaged a double-double, yet he scored only 16.7 points and made 0.5 threes per game. His 9.7 points per game decline on his seasonal tally was the second-worst of the week across the NBA.

Fortunately, Danilo Gallinari and John Collins stepped up, so the Hawks will now hope they can get all their stars firing at once.

Anthony Edwards' confidence is flowing after a phenomenal performance in the Minnesota Timberwolves' 123-119 win over the Phoenix Suns, adamant his form is not a surprise to him.

Rookie Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns were in devastating form on Thursday, ensuring two players scored 40 points in the same game for just the second time in Minnesota franchise history.

The 42 posted by Edwards was a career high, while Towns added 41 to the board as the Timberwolves clinched their third win in five since the All-Star break.

That personal-best haul was not the only achievement of note for Edwards, however, who at 19 years and 225 days joined illustrious company as he became the third-youngest player to have a 40-point NBA game and set a new record for a Timberwolves rookie.

Kevin Durant (19y, 200d) and LeBron James (19y, 88d) are the only players who ever reached that mark younger than Edwards, who made 15 of 31 shots on Thursday.

Nevertheless, it was Juancho Hernangomez's late dunk that secured the win with 2.5 seconds remaining, and as such Edwards dismissed the idea that the Timberwolves are relying on just himself and Towns.

"I wouldn't say that, we're just playing together," Edwards said. "If I've got it going some nights, of course they're going to lean on me, but if I haven't got it going then we go another route and I'll find what I find.

"So, it doesn't really matter who's getting more minutes, who's scoring, it's about winning. Me and KAT [Towns] scoring 40 and losing, it would be a different vibe, but scoring 40 and won so it's nothing but excitement and enjoyable."

While Edwards spoke well of his team-mates, particularly Towns and Hernangomez, his self-assuredness was obvious – the 19-year-old simply is not shocked by his trajectory.

"I put in the work for it, it always shows. I work in the dark, it should come to the light," he continued. "I'm not surprised at all, I put in work for it.

"People who know, like really know me, who's close to me, they know all I do is go to the gym and workout, all season that's all I do.

"Early morning, late at night, whatever time we're going to workout, we're going to workout. People who know me know this is what's supposed to be happening."

Understandably Edwards is in the conversation for Rookie of the Year, though he stresses this is not something he is spending much time thinking about.

"Whoever's picking the rookie of the year, the votes or whatever, that's not my focus," Edwards claimed. "I'm trying to win, get better, trying to grow. I'm still a rookie. There's still a lot of stuff that I don't know and that Ricky [Rubio] is going to teach me, so if I win it, I win it, and if I don't – on to the next season.

"As long as I know how good I am and the work that's going in… I don't really care about that one."

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