Edwards energizes Wolves in opening 124-106 win over Rockets

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Anthony Edwards energized the first full-size home crowd of his nascent career with 29 points in 31 minutes for the Minnesota Timberwolves, who cruised to a 124-106 victory over the Houston Rockets to start the season on Wednesday night.

Karl-Anthony Towns led the way with 30 points and 10 rebounds, D’Angelo Russell added 22 points and seven assists, and the Timberwolves were in control from start to finish.

“To see the place packed and alive like that is something really, really special, and I think for all us in the NBA, that’s something we took for granted,” Towns said.

Christian Wood had 16 points and nine rebounds and Eric Gordon added 15 points off the bench for the rebuilding and overmatched Rockets.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this was the third time in franchise history the Timberwolves had three 20-plus-point scorers on opening night. The star trio went right to work, putting up 26 of Minnesota’s 32 points in the first quarter.

Towns did his usual damage inside and outside, including 12 points during a 32-14 Timberwolves run to close the first half. Edwards had the crowd of 16,079 buzzing every time he touched the ball, and the arena went wild when he hit his fourth 3-pointer of the second quarter for a 72-43 lead. The first overall pick in the 2020 draft yelled in celebration and made multiple mocking timeout signals toward the Houston bench, daring them to try to stop his hot streak.

“The energy goes up, and then next play, you’re going to see a lot of people playing really hard to back it up,” Towns said. “It’s great. It’s a morale boost.”

Incoming Timberwolves owner Marc Lore, who’s partnering with Alex Rodriguez to buy the club from Glen Taylor, sat courtside in a blue mask and a gray hat and had a blast watching the action.

Edwards came on strong down the stretch of his rookie season, but due to the pandemic there were hardly any people at Target Center to watch him. He clearly thrived in Wednesday’s atmosphere, offering a highlight reel of swishes and dunks to start his second year in the NBA.

“Last year, it was freezing in the gym. This year, it’s hot,” Edwards said. “You hear everybody. Different atmosphere, man. Just great.”

The Timberwolves went 15 for 36 from 3-point range and played the kind of intense defense that has been badly missing for several seasons. Josh Okogie was the catalyst, as usual, contributing two blocks and two steals. Minnesota forced 24 turnovers, translating to 38 points, and had a 31-13 edge in fast-break scoring.

“It’s really what we’ve been trying to sell our guys. If we want to be a team that takes a step forward, we have to have that type of defensive approach,” coach Chris Finch said.

Second-year coach Stephen Silas has his hands full with these exceptionally young Rockets, who fell behind by a game-high 35 points early in the fourth quarter. Daniel Theis, Kevin Porter Jr. and Alperen Sengun each had 11 points, as a small-ball lineup got swallowed up on the glass.

“Initially, I think maybe we had some first-game jitters as far as far as our group, which is natural, especially for a young group,” Silas said. “Part of that contributed to our turnovers and our poor execution.”

Second overall draft pick Jalen Green had nine points, four rebounds and four assists in 32 minutes in his NBA debut.

“I feel like everyone’s been trying to bug me because I’m a rookie. They’re yelling every time they come at me, but that’s all right,” Green said. “It’s fine. I’m going to take it.”

FRESH TWENTIES

The last 20-point trio for the Timberwolves in an opener was Jimmy Butler, Jeff Teague and Andrew Wiggins on Oct. 17, 2018. On Oct. 31, 1997, they had four players reach that mark: Chris Carr, Kevin Garnett, Tom Gugliotta and Cherokee Parks.

TIP-INS

Rockets: Danuel House Jr. didn’t play for an unspecified personal reason, so Jae’Sean Tate started at the small forward spot. He made 58 starts last season.

Timberwolves: Patrick Beverley served his one-game suspension for shoving Chris Paul during a timeout in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals, while he was with the Los Angeles Clippers. … With Beverley out, Jordan McLaughlin backed up Russell at point guard.

UP NEXT

Rockets: Play their home opener against Oklahoma City on Friday.

Timberwolves: Stay home for two straight games against New Orleans, on Saturday and Monday.

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