CLEVELAND (AP) — Karl-Anthony Towns wasn’t shooting for a trophy or title. This time, his clutch 3-pointer saved the Timberwolves.
On the same floor where he recently won the NBA’s 3-point Contest during All-Star Weekend, Towns drained a 27-footer with 11.8 seconds left as the Timberwolves survived Cleveland’s comeback for a 127-122 win over the Cavaliers on Monday night.
“I was ready for the moment,” Towns said.
The 7-footer’s first 3 of the game helped the Timberwolves hang on after blowing a 23-point third-quarter lead. One of the league’s best outside shooters, Towns became the first center to win the 3-point contest, surprising a field of seven guards.
“Oh, yeah,” he said with a smile when asked if he likes shooting at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. “This building has great memories for me.”
Towns missed his first three 3-point attempts before taking a pass from guard D’Angelo Russell and calmly knocking down his winner over Cedi Osman. Towns had been surprised his first three 3-point attempts were off the mark.
“The fourth,” he said, “was cash money.”
Russell scored 25 points, and Towns and Anthony Edwards added 17 apiece as Minnesota handed Cleveland its first home loss in nearly two months.
Kevin Love led the Cavaliers with 26 points, Jarrett Allen had 21 and rookie Evan Mobley had 15 and 10 rebounds.
Cleveland’s trying to scrape by without All-Star guard Darius Garland, who is sidelined with a bone bruise, and the Cavs are also missing guards Rajon Rondo (sprained toe) and Caris LeVert (sprained foot).
Brandon Goodwin had 17 points, 12 assists and just one turnover in 35 minutes for the Cavs while starting in Garland’s spot.
Jaden McDaniels made a career-high five 3s and added 17 for the Timberwolves, who opened the third quarter with a 26-7 run and built a 98-75 lead with 2:44 left in the third.
It appeared Minnesota would coast to an easy win, but the Cavs, who have had to persevere through major injuries all season, wouldn’t quit.
With Love leading the way, Cleveland battled all the way back and tied it 122-all on Osman’s 3-pointer with 33.8 seconds left.
But on Minnesota’s next possession, Towns, who badly missed a 31-footer moments earlier, hit his go-ahead bucket from the top of the key.
“KAT is such a good shooter, I always think the shot is going in, no matter if he hasn’t shot it in two quarters or whatever,” Minnesota coach Chris Finch said. ”We went pick-and-roll to see if we could find KAT on the pop. He decided just to rise up and put up the shot.
“KAT is big-time, so he can get his shot off against anyone — and it was a tough shot.”
Osman was way off with a 3-pointer with 4.6 seconds to go and Russell iced the win with two free throws.
Cleveland lost at home for the first time since Jan. 4, ending an eight-game win streak.
“We’ve been in that situation a couple times before,” Osman said. “We never gave up. We’re upset we lost because we fought really hard. I apologize for that last shot. I have to be better in those positions.”
Timberwolves: G Malik Beasley (illness) returned after missing one game. … G McKinley Wright IV (left elbow) and G Leando Bolmaro (G League assignment with Iowa) were inactive. … Finch spent two seasons in the G League, taking Rio Grande to the finals both years. “I believe it’s the third-best league in the world behind the EuroLeague,” Finch said. “It’s one of the best things the NBA has ever done.”
Cavaliers: Committed 22 turnovers. … Didn’t get a rebound for the first 9:50 of the second quarter. … Allen has a career-high 31 double-doubles, tying him for the third most in the East with Philadelphia’s James Harden. … Love holds the Timberwolves record with 190 3-pointers in a season, set eight years ago. He spent his first six seasons with Minnesota.
The Cavs have embraced an underdog’s mentality all season, which has led to players barking before, during and after games.
Coach J.B. Bickerstaff ramped up the canine connection last weekend by awarding a bejeweled “Junkyard Dog” chain to Isaac Okoro for his shut-down defense in a win over Washington. The award will be given to a Cavs player after each victory.
“It’s cool,” said Mobley, who believes the chain will be an incentive. “I feel like guys will go even harder.”
Timberwolves: Host Golden State on Tuesday.
Cavaliers: Host Charlotte on Wednesday.
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