LaMelo Ball helps Hornets beat Timberwolves 121-113
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — LaMelo Ball had 32 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and the dagger 3-pointer down the stretch to lead the Charlotte Hornets past the Minnesota Timberwolves, 121-113 on Friday night.
Gordon Hayward added a season-high 27 points and 13 rebounds and P.J. Washington had in 20 points for the Hornets. They won their third straight overall and stopped a seven-game road skid.
Bell bested Minnesota All-Star Anthony Edwards in a battle of two of the top three picks in the 2020 draft. Edwards had 29 points and eight rebounds, bringing the Wolves to life in the fourth quarter and on the verge of avoiding a second damaging loss to the lottery-bound Hornets.
After Edwards hit a stepback jumper on Ball for a 104-102 lead with 6:41 left, Ball answered with a 3-pointer to put Charlotte back in front.
Hayward's tip-in with 2:11 remaining gave the Hornets a 112-109 advantage. He dished to the top of the key for Ball's fifth 3-pointer of the game and a 117-111 lead with 1:21 to go.
Rudy Gobert had 17 points and 10 rebounds, Mike Conley scored 15 points and Nickiel Alexander-Walker added 13 points for the Wolves, who were out of sorts and foul-happy on defense and watched the Hornets go 25 for 28 from the free-throw line.
Kelly Oubre Jr. returned for the Hornets from a 24-game absence with his recovery from left hand surgery complete. Oubre, one of three 20-points-per-game scorers on the squad, had eight points in 23 minutes off the bench.
The Wolves emerged from their break in seventh place in the Western Conference, with just two fewer wins than the fourth-place Clippers and only two fewer losses than the 13th-place Lakers in this absurdly crowded race for the playoffs.
The Wolves have only seven of their last 20 games at home, the fewest left in the league, with a daunting majority of their remaining schedule against teams currently above the postseason cut. That might actually help them, though. They're just 5-8 against the five worst teams in the NBA: Houston, San Antonio, Detroit, Charlotte and Orlando.
The Hornets, who beat the Wolves 110-108 at home on Nov. 25, stopped a seven-game losing streak with back-to-back wins going into the break. They sure didn't lose their momentum on offense, shooting 56% from the field in the first half for a 72-64 lead.
Gobert had a rare fast break on Minnesota's first possession of the second half. Instead of trying to finish with a slam as the Charlotte defender challenged him he flipped a pass to Jaden McDaniels, who missed a short bank shot. The ball went the other way, and Ball swished a 3-pointer in front of the Wolves bench before glancing at the inside of his forearm and pointing to his veins to boast about his clutch shooting.
TOWNS STILL DOWN
Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns was sidelined for the 41st straight game with a calf strain, an injury that still lacks a clear timetable for his return.
“He’s definitely in the final stages. He’s itching to play," coach Chris Finch said. "I don’t think that it’s a question of anything like going off path right now.”
Hornets: Ball set a career best with his fifth straight double-double. His season highs are 33 points and 12 rebounds. ... The Hornets improved to 9-25 on the road.
Timberwolves: Reid was subbed out for Gobert with 4:21 remaining, grabbing his right wrist in pain after a hard foul on Nick Richards. ... Backup PF Taurean Prince was out for personal reasons.
Hornets: Host Miami on Saturday night, starting a four-game homestand.
Timberwolves: Play at Golden State on Sunday night, starting a four-game trip to face each of the four California teams. They play at home again in 10 days.
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Dave Campbell, The Associated Press