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Karl-Anthony Towns shines late in 109-103 win vs. Warriors

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Karl-Anthony Towns helped Minnesota stop a season-longest three-game losing streak with 31 points and 16 rebounds, and the Timberwolves powered their way past Golden State down the stretch for a 109-103 victory on Sunday to hand the Warriors their second straight defeat without Stephen Curry.

Kevin Durant had 39 points and 12 rebounds for the Warriors, who left Curry at home from this road trip to rest an injured right ankle and lost 125-108 to Portland on Friday.

Andrew Wiggins added 23 points for the Timberwolves, who lost twice on the road to the defending champion Warriors earlier this season by a combined 37 points. Curry had a collective plus-36 rating over those two games.

With their spot in the ultracompetitive Western Conference standings slipping while All-Star Jimmy Butler recuperates from right knee surgery, the Wolves needed this win in the worst way in the thick of a daunting stretch of their schedule.

Towns made his All-Star presence felt when it mattered most, swishing a 3-pointer with 5:54 left to give the Wolves a 99-92 edge for their largest lead since early in the second quarter. He had 14 points in the fourth period alone, knocking down a floater from the lane with 2:18 to go; a fadeaway with 1:08 remaining; then a layup follow of his own miss with 37.5 seconds left to put the game away. He held out his long arms and cupped his hands to encourage the crowd as the last seconds ticked off the clock.

Klay Thompson had 21 points for the Warriors, but he went 3 for 12 from 3-point range. Draymond Green added 10 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, but he had trouble defending Towns down low. Zaza Pachulia pitched in 16 points and 11 rebounds, but without their catalyst, Curry, the Warriors weren’t the same.

The Wolves displayed some of their sharpest ball movement since Butler went down, fueling an early lead that rose as high as 11 points late in the first quarter. Coach Tom Thibodeau then initiated Derrick Rose’s debut in an extra-small lineup next to Tyus Jones and Jamal Crawford, and, coincidentally or not, the Warriors immediately took control.

Over the 6:48 stretch Rose was in the game as the shooting guard, the Wolves were outscored 27-10. After losing the ball on a drive to the lane that led to a fast break for Warriors, Rose lost track of Livingston and gave up an uncontested dunk on the other end before Thibodeau called a timeout with the Wolves trailing 44-38.

Durant and Green each knocked down a pair of 3-pointers in the second quarter, and, thanks in part to an 18-4 first-half edge in fast-break points, the Warriors built a lead as big as 57-45. The Wolves whittled away at it right before the break and kept up the comeback after halftime. Wiggins in particular was more aggressive than he’s been lately, including a pull-up jumper just before the third-quarter buzzer that tied the game at 84.

ALMOST-PERFECT PACHULIA

Coming off the bench now while JaVale McGee starts at center, Pachulia made his first seven shots to give the Warriors a big boost in another game with a thin bench. Reserves Andre Iguodala (wrist sprain), Jordan Bell (ankle sprain) and David West (arm cyst) were all held out again. Pachulia also had three assists, two blocked shots and a steal in 25 minutes.

NO BLOOM FOR ROSE

This was Rose’s first on-court action since Feb. 7 for Cleveland, against Minnesota. He didn’t get back in the game and finished 1 for 5 from the floor for two points with two assists, one rebound and two turnovers.

TIP-INS

Warriors: West was scheduled for examination by a dermatologist on Sunday, coach Steve Kerr said, before the next assessment about his return could be made. … Thompson was under his scoring average (19.7 points per game entering the afternoon) in eight of the last 10 contests.

Timberwolves: Towns reached his NBA-best 57th double-double of the season. … Taj Gibson had 11 points and 13 rebounds, reaching double-digits scoring for the 18th time in the last 21 games.

UP NEXT

Warriors: Return home to play the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.

Timberwolves: Hit the road to take on the Washington Wizards on Tuesday.

For more AP NBA coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

Wes Unseld Jr., Kenny Atkinson reportedly top list for next Chicago coach

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Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley, the two guys at the top of Chicago Bulls basketball operations, fired a coach in Jim Boylen that the team owner liked. Which means they have to nail the next hire.

Chicago in on to the second round of interviews and four names stand out, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Bulls are narrowing to finalists for their head coaching job and expect to conduct final interviews soon, sources said. Denver assistant Wes Unseld Jr., Philadelphia assistant Ime Udoka, Milwaukee assistant Darvin Ham and former Brooklyn head coach Kenny Atkinson are among the coaches who have had strong interviews so far.

Atkinson has a more proven resume after what he did in Brooklyn, but the other three are top assistants who have earned their shot in the big chair. Unseld Jr. is a hot name right now because his team is still in the bubble and playing well — he’s Mike Malone’s lead assistant on the Denver Nuggets — but every name on this list is qualified.

Whoever lands the job will head a team with plenty of potential but also plenty of questions. The Bulls have quality young talent on the roster — Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Coby White, Wendell Carter — but do they are fit together? How good Chicago is next season may depend more on the growth of White and the health of Markkanen than it does on who gets selected as coach.

Expect Karnisovas to spend a year putting his stamp on this roster and moving players around. First, however, he’s got to find his coach.

Michael Jordan, Denny Hamlin form NASCAR racing team with Bubba Wallace driving

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Michael Jordan is getting into the NASCAR game.

The North Carolina native has teamed up with three-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin to form a new NASCAR Cup Series race team — and they’ve signed Bubba Wallace to drive.

Wallace is the only Black man driving full-time in NASCAR’s top series (the previous three seasons he raced for Richard Petty Motorsports). Wallace has been at the forefront of bringing social changes to NASCARincluding the banning of the Confederate flags at NASCAR events and tracks.

“Growing up in North Carolina, my parents would take my brothers, sisters and me to races, and I’ve been a NASCAR fan my whole life,” Jordan said in a statement. “The opportunity to own my own racing team in partnership with my friend, Denny Hamlin, and to have Bubba Wallace driving for us, is very exciting for me.

“Historically, NASCAR has struggled with diversity and there have been few Black owners. The timing seemed perfect as NASCAR is evolving and embracing social change more and more. In addition to the recent commitment and donations I have made to combat systemic racism, I see this as a chance to educate a new audience and open more opportunities for Black people in racing.”

Michael Jordan becomes the first Black owner of a full-time race team in NASCAR top series since NASCAR Hall of Famer Wendell Scott in the 1960s and early 1970s (he owned the team and drove the car). Bubba Wallace is the first Black full-time driver in the top NASCAR series since Scott.

Hamlin will be a minority partner in the new team and continue to drive for Joe Gibbs Racing.

“This is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I believe is a great fit for me at this point in my career,” said Wallace in a statement. “Both Michael and Denny are great competitors and are focused on building the best team they possibly can to go out and compete for race wins. I’m grateful and humbled that Michael and Denny believe in me and I’m super pumped to begin this adventure with them.”

The car manufacturer, number, sponsors and more will be announced at a later date.

Jordan is the primary owner of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets.

NBA executives pick Luka Doncic as best player under 25 to build around

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Luka Doncic, in his second season, made the leap into the NBA’s elite — fourth in MVP voting and First Team All-NBA. All at age 21.

Not surprisingly, he’s the player under 21 NBA teams would want to build around.

Michael Scotto of Hoopshype polled 15 league executives (including four general managers) and players under 25 they want to build around and Doncic was the unanimous choice.

“To me, Luka is the clear No. 1,” one scout told HoopsHype. “He’s a guy who can be a lead ballhandler. He’s good enough to score and create at a high level, has the right mental makeup and is incredibly smart. He’s been a winner everywhere and will probably be a winner in the league.”

It’s hard to argue when Luka Doncic is already doing this in the playoffs:

Boston’s Jayson Tatum came in second, Phoenix Devin Booker was third, followed by Ja Morant (Memphis) fourth and a tie at fifth between Donovan Mitchell (Utah) and Bam Adebayo (Miami).

An interesting note about that top five: None of them was a No. 1 pick.

Zion Williamson had been on top of this poll a year ago, but after a season where he played just 19 games then looked a step slow in the bubble there are concerns about his long-term health.

“He’s just a special player inside the arc who’s an elite finisher,” one executive told HoopsHype. “Offensively, he can finish at an elite rate. He’s one of the best finishers behind Giannis (Antetokounmpo) and LeBron (James). He can hit the open man. He’s so physically dominant. His shooting shouldn’t be a problem, but we’ll see. I think he’s always going to be hurt, though.”

One healthy dominant season from Williamson and those opinions could shift, but even then Doncic will be an MVP level player the Mavericks can build a contender around. He’s the guy under 25.

Report: Raptors coach Nick Nurse earning $8M salary on extension

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Spurs president-coach Gregg Popovich reportedly had an $11 million salary in 2015 then signed a contract extension in 2019 that keeps him the NBA’s highest-paid coach. Doc Rivers was earning $10 million annually with the Clippers before his latest extension. Warriors coach Steve Kerr, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra also signed extensions in recent years.

What about Nick Nurse, who just signed an extension with the Raptors?

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Raptors coach Nick Nurse signed a new multiyear contract extension on Tuesday — a deal that pays him around $8 million per year, sources say.

That’s a lot for a coach, especially in these times.

But Nurse has proven his value. He might even be the NBA’s best coach right now. He checks so many key boxes.

He has shown the ability to prepare his team for the playoffs then adapt through a long playoff run. His players have developed under his watch. He has dealt with roster upheaval and kept everything humming.

After just two seasons as head coach, Nurse still must prove himself in more situations, especially as opposing teams become more familiar with his strategies. But Toronto should want to keep him.

Credit Raptors ownership for paying to make it happen.

Now onto Raptors president Masai Ujiri