Towns, Russell return; Timberwolves beat Thunder 98-90

Karl-Anthony Towns had 17 points and 16 rebounds, while D’Angelo Russell struggled on 3-of-12 shooting in their return to the lineup for the Minnesota Timberwolves in a 98-90 win against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night.

Anthony Edwards scored 22 points for Minnesota, which was finally at full strength for the first time since Edwards and Taurean Prince went into the NBA’s health and safety protocols on Dec. 17. Hit hard by COVID-19, the Timberwolves had their preferred starting lineup together for the first time in 10 games.

Towns had missed six games and Russell sat out five while in the protocols.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 19 points in his return for Oklahoma City after missing one game in the protocols. Josh Giddey, who became the youngest player in league history with a triple-double in the Thunder’s last game, had 14 points, 15 rebounds and six assists.

Minnesota’s starting lineup didn’t show any rust early. It had to hold on late.

The Thunder recovered from a 21-point deficit to close within two midway through the fourth quarter. Gilgeous-Alexander got the comeback started as Oklahoma City went on a 20-8 run and Giddey knocked down two 3-pointers to cut the lead to 79-77.

Nursing an 85-83 advantage, Minnesota went on a 9-0 run with four points from reserve guard Jaylen Nowell and held on to win the first of two straight meetings between the teams.

The starting unit had the Timberwolves out to a 16-4 lead on 6-of-8 shooting to open the game, including a pair of 3-pointers by Patrick Beverley. Minnesota led by as many as 20 in the first as Oklahoma City struggled to its worst quarter of the season.

The Thunder had a season-low 10 points, shot 3 of 16 and committed 10 turnovers in the first.


The Thunder welcomed Gilgeous-Alexander and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl back from the health and safety protocols, but C Isaiah Roby was added to the protocols on Wednesday. Robinson-Earl, who missed four games, flew to meet the team in Minnesota and was back in the starting lineup.

Oklahoma City coach Mark Daigneault missed his fifth straight game while in the protocols. Assistant Mike Wilks was the acting head coach.


Thunder: Derrick Favors was out of the protocols after missing one game, but was held out Wednesday with lower back soreness. … Luguentz Dort missed his second straight game with left knee soreness. … Oklahoma City used its 15th starting lineup in 37 games this season.

Timberwolves: The lineup of Towns, Edwards, Russell, Beverley and Jarred Vanderbilt is Minnesota’s most-used starting unit. The team is 9-2 in games started by that quintet. Each of the five players missed time while in the protocols. … Wednesday marked the seventh time the Wolves have held an opponent to 10 points or less in the first quarter.


The teams finish a home-and-home series Friday in Oklahoma City.