WASHINGTON — The Timberwolves defense that’s been so good this season was, well, not Wednesday in the nation’s capital.
The Wizards got dunk, after dunk, after dunk, after dunk in their 115-107 home victory over Minnesota. Washington scored 68 points — including 34 of its 45 made field goals — in the paint.
Washington tallied 18 dunks, per the play by play.
Minnesota looked a step slow for much of the night, as guys like Jarred Vanderbilt, Anthony Edwards and Jaylen Nowell played through illness.
The Wolves held Washington to 30-percent shooting on non-paint shots, but that didn’t matter much, because the Wizards were able to get the ball into the interior with such ease.
Washington attacked Minnesota’s point of attack pick-and-roll defense, using ball movement to find one easy look inside after another.
Minnesota relies on its wings to come down from the corner to serve as the “low man” protecting the paint on drives to the rim. That spot was rarely filled Wednesday.
“We didn’t have low man, and our weak side kept pulling out,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said. “I don’t know if it was fear of shooting or whatnot.”
Finch and Co. tried everything to shore up the paint defense, switching up coverages multiple times. That even included what looked to be a 1-2-2 zone late in the game. On the first possession of that look, Montrezl Harrell tallied another slam.
Harrell finished with 27 points on 11 for 12 shooting. Fellow center Daniel Gafford added 18 points and 10 rebounds on 7 for 10 shooting.
“We literally threw everything at them, and we just couldn’t figure it out,” Finch said. “Roller got loose, and that was pretty much the end of it for us.”
Minnesota was beat in every sense of the physicality battle. Improved rebounding had been the catalyst for the team’s recent run of success, but the Wizards outrebounded the Wolves 52-39 on Wednesday.
It got so bad that Finch turned to a three-man grouping of Karl-Anthony Towns, Naz Reid and Vanderbilt — Minnesota’s primary three bigs — on the floor at once late in the game to see if anyone could grab a board.
It still didn’t really happen.
“There was just too much space interior-wise, so guys were able to hop around and re-position themselves,” Finch said. “We didn’t hit first.”
Offensively, Washington single-covered Towns for much of the night, often with smaller defenders such as Kyle Kuzma. It was almost as if the Wizards were daring Towns to beat them.
He did for much of the night, finishing with 34 points on 11 for 25 shooting before exiting the game late after he slipped off the rim on a dunk and landed on his tailbone. Finch said Towns was getting x-rays after the game, but he didn’t have any further updates.
But in allowing Towns to go off, Washington (14-8) prevented Minnesota’s other players to get into a rhythm. D’Angelo Russell had an off night offensively, going 3 for 18 from the field, and 1 for 12 from deep.
“I thought he had clean looks early, and late I thought he was trying to make something happen out of nothing,” Finch said of Russell. “Shot selection in the fourth overall was not very good for us.”
The Wolves (11-11) shot just 30 percent from 3-point range as a team. Anthony Edwards finished with 25 points.
The Timberwolves’ ninth-annual broadcast auction raised more than $104,000 for the Fastbreak Foundation — a new record.