- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 3, 2019

With the playoffs fading further and further away as the weeks have gone by, the Washington Wizards needed another win to start off the final month of the regular season right.

The final push began Sunday when the Wizards beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 135-121 at home. Washington broke away late after neither team held a double-digit lead for almost three quarters.

All five Wizards starters scored at least 13, with Bobby Portis posting a team-high 26 and 12 rebounds and Bradley Beal adding 22 points. Jabari Parker came off the bench for 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting. Karl-Anthony Towns led Minnesota with 28 points and 10 boards.

The Wizards avoided losing for the sixth time in the last seven games.

Beal scored 12 in the opening 12 minutes to get things moving, and the Wizards held a 40-36 lead after one quarter. Neither team ripped off a long run throughout the first half, but the Timberwolves managed to swing the score to 64-62 in their favor by halftime.

In the half, 52 of the Wolves’ points came in the paint, with Towns (8-for-11, 17 points) leading the way. But Washington defended better down low in the second.

“They had 52. We were talking about, they were on pace (for) I’m assuming what would’ve been an NBA record, 104, for the game,” coach Scott Brooks said with no hint of sarcasm. “Talked about that at halftime, and they came out in the third quarter and guarded the paint.”

Portis scored eight quick points in the opening minutes of the second half, Parker scored 11 of his 22 total points in the third quarter — and the Wizards found a foothold.

In the final seconds of the third quarter, Sam Dekker made the play of the game by grabbing a steal at the sideline and whipped a behind-the-back pass upcourt to Parker to score.

“Jabari and Bobby, they were rolling. Tough matchups,” Brooks said. “Jabari’s a tough matchup when he plays downhill. That’s what we have to continue to focus on: giving him opportunities and trying to find places on the floor where he can attack the basket.”

Parker used the same word when asked in the locker room later, separately from his coach.

“Just trying to get downhill,” he said. “My game is looking for others, but if I don’t look out for myself I can’t create for others. So I just tried to keep that in mind, and that kinda helped.”

Minnesota made no real threat at a comeback in the fourth. The Timberwolves finished shooting 52.5 percent but just 4-for-27 from the 3-point arc.

Portis‘ 26 points still didn’t touch his career-high as a Wizard — the 30 he dropped in his team debut. But it was far and away his best offensive performance since All-Star Weekend.

“Coming out of the All-Star Break, I really haven’t had good shooting nights, Portis said. “Been rebounding the ball pretty well, a high level, but really haven’t had that good shooting night like I wanted. So I was due for one.”

Before the game, Brooks was asked where he hopes the Wizards will be in a month’s time.

“Definitely what you hope for going into this month is we continue to put together some good games and start winning some of these close games,” Brooks said. “April 11, we’re talking about our first round and getting together as a staff … We’ve still got 20 games to figure that out.”

For these Wizards, winning one close game at a time could carry them back into the playoff picture yet.

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