MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Washington Wizards looked ready to start their All-Star break early, before Bradley Beal helped snap them out of their funk.
This new-look, still-adjusting team has been starting to turn a corner.
Beal had 13 of his 35 points over the final 4 1/2 minutes to help the Wizards finish their rally from a 20-point first-quarter deficit and beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 114-106 on Thursday night.
Kyle Kuzma — who had 16 points on just 6-for-21 shooting — swished a top-of-the-key fadeaway from deep for a 107-106 lead that was Washington’s first of the game with 1:14 to go.
“We’ve just got to keep building these habits that we’re doing right now,” Kuzma said. “I think we’re playing great team ball right now.”
Beal, who topped the 30-point mark for the third time in four games, followed with a 3-pointer with 37 seconds left — after a miss by Minnesota’s Anthony Edwards — to make it 110-106.
“Probably this is the best game for me this season so far, because of how we showed our heart, we stayed in the game, we kept playing,” said Kristaps Porzingis, who had 14 points. “Some guys were already like checked out a little bit. We locked back in and we pulled it out of somewhere.”
Corey Kispert scored 15 points off the bench to offset off nights by Kuzma and Porzingis and help the Wizards (28-30) build on their recent momentum entering the All-Star break. They have won 10 of their last 14 and hold the 10th and final spot for the Eastern Conference playoffs.
“We’re still learning each other, but now we feel like we can take off running,” Beal said.
Edwards had 18 of his 34 points in the first quarter to help the Timberwolves surge to a 30-10 lead. They were still ahead 99-92 with 4:38 left after three free throws by Kyle Anderson, before Beal hit a wide-open 3-pointer to spark his late surge.
Rudy Gobert had 17 points and 19 rebounds for the Timberwolves (31-30), who were derailed by their characteristic mid-game lulls and missed an opportunity to move a season-best three games above the .500 mark.
With the Wizards wearing their hot pink “City Edition” uniforms in an ode to the city’s iconic cherry blossoms, the Wolves were the hotter team for most of the game while new point guard Mike Conley continued to help Gobert find his offensive groove with the pick-and-rolls and lob passes they perfected together in Utah.
But Edwards — who had six turnovers — began to make some rash decisions after his strong start, and the Wolves were outrebounded and outhustled down the stretch.
“We’ve done it time and time again,” said Anderson, who had 18 points and eight rebounds. “It stings like hell.”
The Wizards have won seven straight games against the Wolves, extending the longest streak in the history of their series.
“I feel like it’s the same story,” Gobert said. “We get a lead, and then we just lose the urgency.”
ANT GOES MARCHING
Edwards, who was added to the All-Star roster last week as an injury replacement, was headed to Utah for the annual in-season showcase this weekend while his teammates scattered on vacations.
“I think moments like that are perfectly suited for him,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said. “He enjoys that type of environment. It’ll be fun for him in and around all of those other players. He’ll get treated like the star that he is becoming.”
Wizards: Beal, who became the second player in franchise history to hit the 15,000-point mark for his career in a loss on Monday at Golden State, went 14 for 28 from the floor. ... Kispert went 4 for 6 from 3-point range. He was 5 for 22 over his last five games.
Timberwolves: Edwards had only one higher-scoring first quarter in his three-year career, with 19 points at Orlando on Nov. 16. ... Towns missed his 40th straight game with the right calf strain he suffered when Minnesota played at Washington on Nov. 28.