MINNEAPOLIS — One game after Minnesota Timberwolves interim coach Sam Mitchell angrily benched four of his starters for most of the second half, he watched the same group deliver one of the best offensive performances in franchise history.
Karl-Anthony Towns had 28 points, seven assists and six rebounds and the Timberwolves shot a franchise-record 68.4 percent to beat the Brooklyn Nets, 132-118, on Saturday night.
“We played with a lot more energy,” Mitchell said. “The way we moved the ball and set screens, you can’t ask for anything better than that.”
Andrew Wiggins had 26 points and six assists, Zach LaVine scored 21 points and Ricky Rubio had 16 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds for the Timberwolves. The Wolves had a season-high 36 assists to bounce back from an ugly loss in Milwaukee on Friday night.
“We responded well,” Wiggins said. “We knew last night was not how we play. We all know we’re better than that.”
Markel Brown scored 23 points and Thomas Robinson added 18 points and 17 rebounds for the Nets. Sean Kilpatrick scored a career-high 19 for Brooklyn.
The Nets are in the middle of a nine-game road trip, and Nets coach Tony Brown decided to rest Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young on the second night of a back-to-back after playing heavy minutes Friday in Denver.
“I think our other guys who got a chance to play, they have to show more energy, play with a little bit more effort and play together on both ends of the floor,” Brown said. “We didn’t get a lot of that tonight.”
Without Lopez to patrol the paint and Young to spread the floor, the Nets were toast.
The Wolves didn’t have one player miss more than four shots in the game.
The Timberwolves shot 74 percent in the first quarter and just kept right on making shots. The Nets trimmed a 23-point deficit to eight with 7:44 to play in the fourth, but Minnesota responded with an 8-0 run to seal the win.
The Wolves made 10 of 18 three-pointers and scored 25 points off 16 Nets turnovers.
Minnesota’s previous franchise record was 67.1 percent set against the Lakers in 2014.
The Nets entered the night just one victory ahead of the Wolves in the race to the bottom, with the team with the worse record getting a better chance at the No. 1 pick in the NBA’s draft lottery. A team that rested its two best players in a game like this normally might be accused of tanking, but not the Nets. Their first-round draft choice is owned by Boston.
“There’s a bigger picture here,” Brown said. “Obviously, we’re out of the playoff race. We want to stay in the games, but we also want to be conscious about their physical well-being.”