The Minnesota Timberwolves have one of the hottest players on the planet heading into Friday's home game against the Orlando Magic.
Karl-Anthony Towns, a versatile 7-foot center, is averaging 28.2 points, 17.2 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 3.0 blocks in the past five games. The 23-year-old is shooting 53.1 percent from the field and 47.4 percent from beyond the 3-point line (9 of 19) during that stretch.
"He's scoring in a lot of different ways," said Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau. "He's doing a lot better job of moving when he kicks the ball out too so he's getting a second and third opportunity. He's making multiple efforts on both sides of the ball now."
Towns had 28 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists in Wednesday's 115-102 loss in Boston. The Magic, meanwhile, were putting together one of their most complete offensive performances of the season. The return of point guard D.J. Augustin had something to do with that.
The sprained ankle that kept him out Monday's 25-point loss in Charlotte was healed enough for Augustin to contribute 10 points and six assists in 25 minutes off the bench in Wednesday's 112-84 rout of the Chicago Bulls.
Augustin's ankle might not be 100 percent for Friday's game, but he helped Orlando shoot 57.9 percent against the Bulls, as the Magic racked up 31 assists on 44 made baskets. Inasmuch as backup point guard Jonathon Simmons has missed two games with an ankle injury, the Magic need the steady hand of the 11th-year pro as much as ever.
"I just take pride in being on the floor and playing the right way," Augustin said. "Taking good shots and controlling the game -- those are the types of things I take pride in," Augustin said. "I don't really pay attention to the other things, but I take pride in doing what I can to help my team."
This will be the first meeting of the season between Minnesota (17-21) and Orlando (17-20).
Even with Towns and Andrew Wiggins (season-high 31 points Wednesday night), the Wolves haven't had enough help recently. Point guard Jeff Teague has missed nine games, Derrick Rose three and Robert Covington one -- all because of ankle injuries.
Teague was upgraded from doubtful to questionable for Wednesday's game but did not play.
Orlando averages just 103.6 points per game, which ranked 27th in the NBA heading into Thursday night's games, but has reached triple digits in five consecutive games, its best such stretch of the season since doing it in six consecutive games in November.
Center Nikola Vucevic is averaging 23.8 points and 11.8 rebounds. Forward Aaron Gordon is averaging 15.4 and 7.6. He had 18 points, nine assists and seven rebounds Wednesday night.
This will be the third game of a six-game road trip for Orlando, which will play three games in four days starting Sunday with the Los Angeles Clippers, followed by Sacramento a day later and then Utah.
"It's good, but the next four games are going to be hard," said wing Evan Fournier. "With all of the traveling and games, it's going to be tough, but (Wednesday) was a really good game for us and it gives us confidence for the rest of the trip. We just have to keep playing this way."
Updated January 3, 2019