Anthony Edwards scored a career-high 34 points and the short-handed Minnesota Timberwolves held on to beat the Portland Trail Blazers 114-112 on Sunday.
Ricky Rubio added 15 points, including eight free throws in the final seconds. Karl-Anthony Towns had 13 points as Minnesota started with just 10 players after rookie Jaden McDaniels was added to the health and safety protocols before the game.
The Timberwolves have won two of their past three games and are 2-6 under new coach Chris Finch.
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“No matter if I’m playing good or bad, if it’s time for a big-time shot, I always want the ball no matter what,” Edwards said of his fourth quarter. “That’s just who I am, but it just happened to be a good game. I was just telling them to give me the ball and get out of the way.”
Damian Lillard scored 38 for Portland, which had won four of five and beat Minnesota 125-121 on Saturday. Gary Trent Jr. added 21 points for the Blazers, and Carmelo Anthony had 16 off the bench.
Neither team could pull away for three quarters, with the largest lead being just six points for the squads playing without several key players and on the second game of a back-to-back.
Portland was playing its 25th straight game without starters Jusuf Nurkic and C.J. McCollum. The Wolves still have second-leading scorer Malik Beasley on a suspension, D’Angelo Russell recovering from left knee surgery and two players in the health and safety protocols.
“From an offensive standpoint, it was a struggle for a lot of the night and particularly the first quarter,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “I thought we did a good job trying to fight through some shooting struggles throughout the game. … I thought we gave a good effort in the fourth quarter to get back into it, but the hole was too deep.”
Minnesota started to pull away early in the fourth and it wasn’t surprising to see Edwards in the middle of the action.
The No. 1 overall draft pick left the game for several minutes after a mid-air collision with Blazers center Enes Kanter but later returned after being examined by the athletic trainer. He scored 13 of his points in the fourth and punctuated the performance with a flying dunk down the middle of the lane with 4:09 remaining to give the Wolves a 10-point advantage.
“He’s fearless,” Finch said. “That’s what you want from all your great offensive players — fearless — and as he learns the NBA and learns his own game and tries to master those individual situations that he finds himself in, which he will over time. It’s fun to see him playing like that, for sure.”
Portland used a 19-8 run late to close within two, but Rubio hit a pair of free throws after an offensive foul on him was changed to a defensive foul following a video review.
“We didn’t lose our nerve,” Finch said. “We found a way to win. That’s important.”
Trail Blazers: Lillard hit six 3-pointers to move past J.R. Smith and J.J. Redick into 14th on the NBA’s career list. Lillard is 26 behind LeBron James for 13th. … Nurkic has missed 26 games with a fractured right wrist. McCollum is out with a left midfoot fracture, but told The Athletic that he could see himself returning next week. … Zach Collins (left ankle stress fracture) and Harry Giles III (left calf strain) also were out.
Timberwolves: Edwards had a career-high six 3s, his 13th game with at least three in a game, marking the second-most such games as a rookie in team history. Stephon Marbury had 15 in 1997. … Jarrett Culver missed his third straight game with a strained left big toe. McDaniels joined Jordan McLaughlin in the league’s health and safety protocols. … The 20 points by the Blazers marked a season low for a Wolves’ opponent in the first quarter.
FREE THROWS GALORE
Minnesota shot 39 free throws and hit 29 and held on by converting late. Portland was 17 of 21 from the line.
“It was a lot of timely whistles,” Lillard said. “Calls got two different plays reversed down the stretch. It was a lot of factors down the stretch of this game. We just came up short.”
Edwards said he received a text from someone who believes the team — which has the league’s worst record — is about to start a winning streak.
“It’s just crazy, but I feel like we can go on a large, tremendous winning streak,” Edwards said. “If we just stay locked in and engaged on everything that we’re doing, we can go on a winning streak.”
Trail Blazers: Host New Orleans on Tuesday.
Timberwolves: Travel to Los Angeles to play the Lakers on Tuesday.