NBA

Towns on tear as Timberwolves await Magic

MINNEAPOLIS -- Karl-Anthony Towns has developed his game further and the Minnesota Timberwolves have followed right along with their talented second-year center.

Following an important win, Nikola Vucevic and the Orlando Magic will be the next team to try and slow Towns in his sophomore season.

Towns and Minnesota have won seven of their past 10 games and will host Orlando on Monday.

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The Timberwolves have found more success recently as Andrew Wiggins, Ricky Rubio, Shabazz Muhammad and others have thrived. But it's Towns who has almost willed Minnesota to its best stretch of the season.

In the past 10 games, Towns has averaged 28.8 points, 12.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.1 steals and 2.0 blocks per game while shooting 62.0 percent from the field.

"There's so much he can do and he's such a threat pretty much anywhere on the court," Brooklyn center Brook Lopez said after Towns had 37 points and 13 rebounds in the Timberwolves' 129-109 win against the Nets on Saturday. "It makes it tough. You have to be aggressive with him and try to make his catches and looks as difficult as possible."

Not even an illness could stop Towns on Saturday. He showed up before the game and said he wasn't sure if he would be able to play against Brooklyn. Then he displayed his all-around game, hitting two 3-pointers and even showing off a left-handed hook shot.

"It's always been something I've had and I've always found ways not to use it," Towns said. "I only use it when I need to. Recently, defenses have been taking away the right-hand hooks, so I've been going to the left and making the decision. It's something I have in my game and always have in my back pocket when I need it."

It's another factor for opponents to stop. The Magic will likely have to put Vucevic, Bismack Biyombo and Serge Ibaka on Towns.

Vucevic has his own offensive game that should worry Minnesota. Orlando's starting center had 25 points and 10 rebounds as the Magic won at Toronto 114-113 on Sunday night. Orlando finishes its three-game road trip against the Timberwolves.

According to the team's Twitter account, Vucevic became the fourth player in Magic history and the fourth player in the NBA this season with 25 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and four blocks in a game.

Of course, Towns is one of the other three players.

Vucevic hit two free throws for the final cushion on Sunday after Raptors guard Kyle Lowry hit a 3-pointer at the end.

The win was important to Orlando, which had lost three games in a row and was coming off a disappointing 128-98 loss at Boston. Magic coach Frank Vogel challenged his team before Sunday's game.

"We were very embarrassed with how we played the other night -- all of us were -- and I made it clear that it wasn't good enough. And we played a better game tonight," Vogel told the team's website. "Ideally, it doesn't take an embarrassing loss to play with competitive spirit. It is what it is, we had a tough night the other night and we responded."

The players heeded Vogel's message.

"He was angry, but that was expected because we had a really poor performance against Boston," Vucevic told the team's website. "We had terrible effort and it was expected for him to have that reaction. I think guys needed to hear him like that. We needed that from him, maybe even a little bit sooner."

D.J. Augustin played his second game back after an ankle injury and scored 21 points in Sunday's win. Orlando was without leading scorer Evan Fournier, who has missed four games in a row with a heel injury. He has returned to practice and is status is unknown for Monday.