Timberwolves visit Magic in search of sixth straight win
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While most of Minnesota is focused on the Vikings' trip to the NFC Championship Game, the Minnesota Timberwolves are on a pretty good roll.
The surging Timberwolves seek their sixth straight win Tuesday night when they visit the Orlando Magic.
"We've come a ways," Minnesota reserve guard Jamal Crawford told reporters about two hours after the Vikings clinched a 29-23 win over the New Orleans Saints. "Now, we still have a ways to go. We're not satisfied. We're not content. We have more levels we can go do. But it's nice to be building good habits."
Minnesota (29-16) is two shy of its win total from last season and can join the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors as the third 30-win team in the Western Conference.
The Timberwolves are on their first five-game winning streak since Jan. 2-10, 2009, and it is only their fifth five-game win streak since their last playoff season in 2003-04.
The Timberwolves are seeking six straight wins for the first time since closing the 2003-04 season with nine consecutive wins.
Minnesota is starting a stretch where it plays nine of 13 on the road after completing the second perfect homestand in team history. The Timberwolves finished a 5-0 homestand by rolling to a 120-103 win over the Portland Trail Blazers.
"It shows growth," Minnesota forward Andrew Wiggins said. "It shows we're getting better every game. We're way better than we were at the beginning of the year. Way better. We have grown a lot."
Jimmy Butler scored 24 points as Minnesota won for the 12th time in 15 games. Jeff Teague added 22 points and Karl Anthony-Towns posted a ninth straight double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds.
The five straight wins are part of a stretch that has seen Minnesota win 12 of its last 15 since a two-point home loss to Phoenix on Dec. 16.
Butler is averaging 25.3 points in Minnesota's hot stretch and Towns has 11 of his 37 double-doubles during the roll, which has seen the Timberwolves average 111.1 points on 49.3 percent shooting.
Orlando (12-31) is on its third skid of at least seven games and is 4-27 in its last 31 games since Nov. 10.
The Magic dropped nine straight from Dec. 9 to Dec. 26 before getting a 13-point home win over Detroit on Dec. 28, but they have lost five games by single digits during their third lengthy skid.
The average margin of defeat in the skid is 8.4. In the first two nine-game losing streaks, it was 14.7 and 13.3, respectively.
Orlando is starting a week where it will visit Cleveland and Boston after facing Minnesota and then returning after falling short in a 125-119 loss at Washington on Friday.
Center Bismack Biyombo scored a career-high 21 points in a game where the Magic shot 51.2 percent and made 12 of 29 3-pointers. The latest frustration occurred when Orlando was outscored 15-8 and went 2 of 12 in the final 5:49.
"It's not surprising because that's our weakness -- the defensive end -- and we've got to improve," Orlando coach Frank Vogel said after the Magic allowed Washington to score 74 points in the paint.
"We've got to keep working at it and we are working at it, and we've got to keep following our assignments and doing it with toughness. We've got to make winning plays and find ways to makes stops in those (end-of-game) situations."
Orlando is allowing 111.1 points per game and Friday was the 12th time it gave up at least 120. The Magic also allowed Washington to shoot 56.8 percent and it was the 17th time they gave up 50 percent shooting.
"The defense was atrocious tonight," Orlando's Jonathon Simmons said. "When the ball gets moving side to side, I think we have to make extra-effort plays on the defensive end. I think we're just a tad slow. We're there -- we're trying to get there -- but we just need to be a little bit earlier."
Minnesota has won the last three meetings after dropping 13 of the previous 15. Butler scored 26 points in the Timberwolves' 124-118 home win on Nov. 22 when the Magic allowed a 41-point third quarter and trailed by as many as 26.
Updated January 16, 2018