Two of the surprise teams in the NBA's first quarter will meet for the first time this season when the Minnesota Timberwolves visit the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night.
The Timberwolves will be riding a stretch of seven wins in eight games when they open a two-game trip at a site where theWizards have lost just twice in nine dates this season.
Minnesota, which won just 10 times on the road last year, has captured two of its past three games away from home, including a 121-120, double-overtime affair at Philadelphia on Saturday.
The Timberwolves have since swung by home for a 100-98 win over the Indiana Pacers before embarking on a trip that will land them in Brooklyn on Friday.
Minnesota coach Chris Finch was particularly pleased with Monday's win over the Pacers, in that it came short-handed with Patrick Beverley and Jaden McDaniels both out and was accomplished in a performance he considered probably not good enough to win in the past.
"The biggest thing for me is: Through all the good things we did, I don't think it was overall a great performance by us," Finch assessed. "And we still managed to win. We did enough of the right things at the right time."
Karl-Anthony Towns, D'Angelo Russell and Anthony Edwards combined for 74 points, 25 rebounds and 18 assists in the win, with each leading the team in one of the three categories -- Towns in points (32), Edwards in rebounds (nine) and Russell in assists (11).
While the team result hasn't often mirrored his individual success, Towns has dominated the Wizards over the years. He's scored 20 or more points in each of the last seven meetings, including a 40-point effort in March 2019, while recording double-doubles in all 10 lifetime duels.
Towns had 23 points and 11 rebounds in last season's trip to Washington, but he couldn't keep pace with the Wizards' Bradley Beal, who went for a game-high 34 points.
Like Towns, Wednesday's opponent has traditionally been one of Beal's favorites. He also had 31 points at Minnesota last January as part of the Wizards' season-series sweep.
After a 10-3 start, the Wizards have dropped five of eight. They split a pair against the Miami Heat and lost to the Charlotte Hornets on their last homestand, before going on the road and winning at Oklahoma City and Dallas among four stops.
Beal has struggled a bit to grasp new coach Wes Unseld Jr.'s offense, with both his scoring average (31.3 to 22.9) and field-goal percentage (48.5 to 43.6) taking a serious dip from career highs last season.
The league runner-up in scoring to Stephen Curry last year was encouraged by 23- and 26-point outings on the just-completed trip, games in which he shot 11-for-20 against the New Orleans Pelicans and 10-for-14 against the Mavericks.
"We know the biggest adjustment with a new team, a new system, is always going to be offense," Beal noted. "It's because you're getting used to new things, new plays, a new system."
Davis Bertans contributed a total of 30 points, mostly on 8-for-18 shooting from outside the arc, to the sweep of the Timberwolves last season. But he has yet to find the range since returning last Wednesday from a 10-game absence due to a sprained ankle.
He's totaled just eight points in four games since, shooting 1-for-19 on 3-pointers.
--Field Level Media