- Associated Press - Friday, March 25, 2016

WASHINGTON (AP) - Randy Wittman has been trying to fix his team’s defensive issues all year. After Washington’s crushing, double-overtime loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night, it might be too late.

Karl-Anthony Towns scored 27 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to help the Timberwolves to a 132-129 victory that sank the Wizards further behind in their pursuit of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

“It didn’t come down to the last play,” said Wittman, whose team gave up 62 first-half points against a team that has only 12 road victories. “We lost the game in the first half, the way we came out and played absolutely zero defense and allowed them to feel good about themselves.”

John Wall had 22 points and 16 assists for the Wizards, who lost starting forward Markieff Morris following the first quarter with a left calf issue.

Bradley Beal scored 26 points, and Marcin Gortat had 19 points and 14 rebounds as 10th-place Washington fell 3 1/2 games behind Detroit for the Eastern Conference’s eighth playoff spot.

“Pretty devastating,” Wall said of the loss. “We know how important it was. Probably the game of the year.”

Beal missed open, potential winning 3-pointers to end regulation and the first overtime. Gortat missed a pair of free throws that could’ve put Washington ahead in the second extra period.

That combined with more subpar defense late allowed the Timberwolves to come from behind at the end of regulation and both overtimes.

“It’s a horrible loss, just plain and simple,” Beal said. “There’s no explanation about it. We shouldn’t have lost that game.”

The Wizards now have 10 games remaining, with the next five of those come on a West Coast road trip that includes a visit to NBA leaders Golden State and both Los Angeles teams.

“We need to play desperate,” Beal said. “We have no other choice.”

Minnesota hit all 22 of its foul shots for its first back-to-back wins since Feb. 3 and 6. Zach LaVine scored 25 points for the Timberwolves and Gorgui Dieng had 18 while playing a key role down the stretch.

Down five with 2:13 left in the second overtime, Andrew Wiggins had a put-back shot and Dieng made a pair of jumpers, the second off LaVine’s pass to put Minnesota up 130-129.

After Jared Dudley missed a 3-pointer for Washington, Dieng fouled Gortat on the rebound. Gortat, who entered shooting 72.4 percent from the line, missed both foul shots.

After a timeout, Towns made a layup off Tayshaun Prince’s inbounds feed to push the lead to three with 11.6 seconds left. Dudley missed another 3 from the top of the arc at the buzzer as Minnesota held on.

“It just shows the integrity of our team,” Towns said, “to go out there and continuously fight no matter what happens during the game.”

COMEBACK KIDS

A young Minnesota squad had already rallied twice to force extra basketball.

Down four in the first overtime, LaVine hit two 3-pointers in a stretch of just over 12 seconds, the second an off-balance shot from the left wing that tied it at 121 with 11.8 seconds left.

To end regulation, Dieng keyed an 8-1 run to help Minnesota pull even. After converting a three-point play, Gorgui’s baseline 3-pointer off Wiggins’ feed tied it at 109 with 19.9 seconds left.

TIP-INS

Timberwolves: Towns set a Minnesota rookie rebounding record, pushing his season total to 741. Kevin Love is second in franchise history with 734. … The Timberwolves have won three of their last five road games after winning three of their previous 24 away from home.

Wizards: Beal’s fourth straight start (following a right leg stress reaction) is his longest such stretch since early December. … With Morris out, Washington began the third quarter with Gortat at center and Nene at forward. … Wall’s double-double was his eighth straight.

UP NEXT

Timberwolves: Host Utah on Saturday.

Wizards: At the Lakers on Sunday.

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