Karl-Anthony Towns, Ricky Rubio lead Wolves over Wizards, 119-104

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Karl-Anthony Towns ran back onto the court after the final horn, almost tackling Ricky Rubio as he did a postgame interview with the local Fox Sports affiliate.

Towns put up another enormous stat line, scoring 17 of his 39 points in the fourth quarter as the Minnesota Timberwolves kept rolling against another heavyweight opponent. But he said he played second fiddle on this night.

Rubio scored 22 points and broke his own franchise record with 19 assists, and the Timberwolves beat the Washington Wizards 119-104 on Monday night.

“He almost single-handedly won us this game tonight,” Towns said of his point guard. “So, we just picked up with any pieces he could give us.”

Nemanja Bjelica added 16 points and 10 boards off the bench for the Timberwolves, who entered the game 3 1/2 games behind Denver for the eighth seed in the Western Conference. Minnesota shot 52 percent and Rubio topped 20 points in back-to-back games for the second time in his six-year career.

John Wall scored 27 points for the Wizards, who fell 2 1/2 games back of Cleveland for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. Bradley Beal added 20 points, but Washington lost for the first time in six games. They finished a tough, five-game road trip at 4-1.

“We were ready to go 5-0. No excuses,” Wall said. “We just didn’t come out and play great defensively.”

Rubio has been playing the best basketball of his life over the last two months, and it has culminated with a brilliant week against some of the best point guards in the league. He outplayed Chris Paul and Stephen Curry in home victories over the Clippers and Warriors last week, then put up 22 points and eight assists in a loss at Milwaukee on Saturday.

But he’s never been better than in the first quarter against Wall and the Wizards. Threading bounce passes through windows that weren’t even open, Rubio doled out 10 assists in the first quarter. Bjelica was a primary beneficiary, catching a 40-foot outlet pass for a layup and a bounce pass that squeezed between two defenders and onto his fingertips for a layup that put the Wolves up 35-14.

“Some nights you see things a little different and it gets easier,” Rubio said. “Tonight in the first quarter I really saw different things out there. I was trying to set the tempo from the beginning and being aggressive.”

The Wizards were undaunted, having come back from a 21-point deficit in the first half to beat Portland on Saturday night.

Wall got off to a slow start shooting, but he attacked the rim relentlessly to help Washington climb back into the game. Wall made 14 of 19 free throws, Beal converted a four-point play and Wall’s two freebies made it 102-97 with 4:21 to play.

But Towns hit a 3 and two free throws, and the Wizards couldn’t find the energy to finish another furious comeback in their fifth game in seven nights.

“I don’t make excuses, but I’m not going to sit here and act like we’re not tired,” Beal said. “It is what it is. We take this loss like a man and we move on from it.”

TIP-INS

Wizards: Wall was chosen Eastern Conference player of the week after averaging 29.8 points and 11.3 assists. … Bojan Bogdanovic had 12 points but made just 1 of 6 3s off the bench.

Timberwolves: Towns was named Western Conference player of the week after averaging 29.0 points and 12.3 rebounds in three games last week. … Rubio’s 10 assists in the first quarter tied Paul’s third quarter against New Orleans on Dec. 10 for most in a quarter this season.

TOWNS’ TECHNICAL

Both Towns and coach Tom Thibodeau picked up technical fouls for arguing with the officials about contact against the big man in the paint. And afterward, an exasperated Thibodeau said he can’t figure out what he has to do to get more calls for Towns.

“I’m asking the officials. I’m asking the league,” Thibodeau said. “There’s a lot of contact there. He’s got to keep going, I guess.”

 

JJ Redick has crack in left leg, will be reevaluated 10-14 days

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The Philadelphia 76ers could use JJ Redick, but it appears that the sharp-shooting guard will be out for at least 10 days due to an injury he suffered on Monday.

The team says Redick sustained the injury late in the fourth quarter during Philly’s 117-111 win over the Toronto Raptors.

Redick finished the game with 15 points, five rebounds, and one assist in 28 minutes of play, but had to be replaced with a little more than four minutes to go by T.J. McConnell.

Via Twitter:

A bone edema is a bit of fluid collection in the marrow (inner) area of the bone. The cortical part of the bone is the harder outer surface. What appears to have happened is that Redick suffered a crack in the exterior portion of his bone that also caused some inner fluid collection.

None of that sounds fun, but Redick will apparently be re-assessed in 10-14 days, so hopefully for the team it’s less serious that all this medical stuff makes it sound.

Arron Afflalo and Nemanja Bjelica fight, both get ejected (VIDEO)

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The Houston Rockets and the Los Angeles Clippers nearly got into a fight on Monday night after their game. The whole thing was a fiasco, and we don’t know the extent of that incident, but apparently it was just an amouse-bouche for Tuesday’s showdown between Arron Afflalo and Nemanja Bjelica.

During the matchup between the Orlando Magic and Minnesota Timberwolves in Florida, the two wound up actually fighting during a play in the second quarter.

As both teams went to contest a rebound on a Jamal Crawford jumper, Bjelica appeared to rush directly at Afflalo as the smaller player tried to pass block.

Elbows and forearms were involved in the rebound attempt, and that’s what caused some actual swinging.

Via Twitter:

Afflalo’s big haymaker didn’t appear to make contact, and Bjelica sort of got the better of him by getting him in a headlock, ending the fight.

Both were ejected. No doubt Adam Silver and the league office will have their work cut out for them trying to parse this fight and whatever happened between Chris Paul, Trevor Ariza, James Harden, Blake Griffin, and Austin Rivers.

Afflalo should get a couple of games for that big swing, and for being the main instigator. Bjelica got a good run at him for the rebound, but the first arms going up above the shoulders was all Afflalo.

It will probably also help Bjelica that once he had Afflalo in a headlock he put his other arm up, seemingly indicating he wanted to get out of the situation but didn’t want to let Afflalo go for fear of the fight continuing.

Players are heated lately, and there has been some discussion about whether new officiating styles by younger referees has led to players getting antsy with each other. We’ve heard that some of the newer refs aren’t talking with players as much, and perhaps that hasn’t let guys blow off steam throughout the course of the game and they’re taking it out on each other.

This is all very armchair psychology of me to speculate, but no doubt the conversation between the NBA, NBPA, and NBRA during the All-Star break regarding the officiating will be massively important.

Stephen Curry, Warriors lead league merchandise sales. Again.

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A few years ago, the Warriors were everybody’s darlings — they were the Brazilian soccer team of the NBA, everybody’s second-favorite squad because they play the beautiful game and did it with flair. However, sustained success in today’s world means people are going to turn on them — how dare they go and add a great player — and it’s become trendier to root against the Warriors and for the next hot thing. The Warriors didn’t change. That’s just the cycle of fame.

However, the trend has not slowed Warriors merchandise sales — they are still the top-selling team in the league, the NBA announced Tuesday. Stephen Curry is on top of the individual jersey sales. Both led the list last season, and Curry has been on top for a few years now.

Those next hot things — Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kristaps Porzingis, and Joel Embiid — are fast climbing the list. Those three rank behind the expected big three of Curry, LeBron James, and Kevin Durant.

The NBA releases the jersey rankings based on NBAStore.com sales from last October through the end of 2017 (that’s not a perfect measure, but it’s representative). Here are the top 15 player jersey sales from NBA.com:

1. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
2. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
3. Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors
4. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
5. Kristaps Porzingis, New York Knicks
6. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
7. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
8. Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers
9. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
10. James Harden, Houston Rockets
11. Lonzo Ball, Los Angeles Lakers
12. Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics
13. Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors
14. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
15. Jimmy Butler, Minnesota Timberwolves

Antetokounmpo has steadily climbed the list the past couple seasons, but this is the first time Porzingis or Embiid appeared in the top 15. Same with Lonzo Ball at 11 (he’s sold more gear than Kyrie Irving or Klay Thompson, which feels wrong).

As for team merchandise sales from NBA.com:

1. Golden State Warriors
2. Cleveland Cavaliers
3. Philadelphia 76ers
4. Los Angeles Lakers
5. New York Knicks
6. Milwaukee Bucks
7. Boston Celtics
8. San Antonio Spurs
9. Chicago Bulls
10. Oklahoma City Thunder

Jazz make it official: Thabo Sefolosha to have knee surgery, done for season

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This report had been out there for a few days, but on Tuesday the Utah Jazz made it official:

Swingman Thabo Sefolosha is going to have knee surgery. From the official release:

After further evaluation, Sefolosha (6-7, 220, Switzerland) has elected to undergo right knee surgery to repair an avulsion of the medial collateral ligament (MCL) which he suffered against Charlotte on Jan. 12. 

While the team would not put a timeline on this, he is done for this season.

Which is a blow to a Utah team that has battled injuries all season, most notably a couple of knee injuries to center Rudy Gobert. Sefolosha has been solid for the Jazz this season, averaging 8.2 points per game primarily off the bench, shooting 38 percent from three and playing solid defense in 21 minutes a night.

Joe Johnson will get more run, but this does not help the slim hopes of the Jazz to climb back into the playoff race.