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Avdija: 'Mark my words -- we’re gonna be good'

Wizards, with Israel’s Avdija, beat Minnesota Timberwolves for 1st win of season

No. 9 overall draft pick has season-high 11 points and added seven rebounds, three assists, three steals; coach Scott Brooks: ‘Deni took another step in a young career’

Washington Wizards forward Deni Avdija (9) dives for the ball next to Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Jan. 1, 2021, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)
Washington Wizards forward Deni Avdija (9) dives for the ball next to Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Jan. 1, 2021, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Bradley Beal had 31 points and seven assists, and the Washington Wizards beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 130-109 on Friday night without Russell Westbrook for their first win of the season.

Westbrook sat out for rest on the second game of a back-to-back, but the Wizards (1-5) looked like a much better team than the one that lost the night before to Chicago at home. Washington jumped to an early lead and answered every Minnesota challenge.

“The energy’s totally different; it’s just positive,” Beal said of earning the team’s first victory. “It’s uplifting. It’s like a weight off your shoulders in a way, but it’s even better to know we played the right way and played the way we know we’re capable of playing.”

With Beal leading the way, the Wizards finished the third quarter on a 29-7 surge and scored 40 points in the period for a 100-79 lead. Beal had 14 in the quarter.

Washington Wizards forward Rui Hachimura (8) dunks against the Minnesota Timberwolves during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game Jan. 1, 2021, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

Malik Beasley scored 21 to lead the Timberwolves (2-3), who have lost three in a row with star center Karl-Anthony Towns missing all three games because of a dislocated left wrist. D’Angelo Russell had 14 points for Minnesota.

“Our energy was low,” Wolves coach Ryan Saunders said about the third quarter. “They were desperate tonight and we should have been that team, too, after our LA trip. We were not and it was evident in that third quarter.”

Thomas Bryant added 18 points and seven rebounds for Washington, which had eight players score in double figures and shot a season-high 55.1% from the field.

Westbrook missed his second game of the season, but Beal has grown accustomed to playing without a star backcourt mate. John Wall missed last season and played only 73 games over the past three seasons while Beal developed as one of the NBA’s top scorers.

Washington Wizards guard Jerome Robinson (12) shoots next to Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jordan McLaughlin (6) during the third quarter during an NBA basketball game, Jan. 1, 2021, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

Beal scored 14 points in the first quarter as the Wizards led by as many as 12 and went without a turnover. He didn’t play in the fourth.

“We can have seven, eight straight losses and we still believe in ourselves,” rookie Deni Avdija said. “Mark my words — we’re gonna be good.”

Russell, the Wolves’ sidekick for Towns, couldn’t pick up the slack without him. He shot 6 of 16 from the field and had five turnovers.

Without their main man in the middle, Minnesota allowed more than 120 points for the third straight game.

“We don’t feel like you have to add to your load just because a guy like Karl is out,” Saunders said. “It’s on all of us. We need more offensively, more defensively. That’s not just from an individual player, that’s from a collective group. With that, individually, we need more from guys to get out of this rut.”

Tip-ins

Wizards: Raul Neto made his second start this season in place of Westbrook and had 12 points, including a pair of 3-pointers. … Beal has scored at least 20 points in 29 straight games, the longest current streak in the NBA. Kawhi Leonard started the day second on the list with 14 in a row. Beal is the first player in team history to score at least 25 points in the first six games of a season. … Davis Bertans was 3 of 7 from 3-point territory a day after going 0 of 8.

Timberwolves: Minnesota was also without forward Josh Okogie, who missed his second straight game with a left hamstring strain. … No. 1 overall draft pick Anthony Edwards had 17 points. Naz Reid scored 17 starting in place of Towns.

Learning on the fly

Avidja, the No. 9 overall draft pick, had a season-high 11 points and added seven rebounds, three assists and three steals. His best game of the season earned accolades from coach Scott Brooks.

“I thought Deni took another step in a young career,” Brooks said. “I thought he was able to make a few plays that we can maybe utilize him more in the future.”

Up next

Wizards: Continue their road trip Sunday at Brooklyn, which has lost three of four.

Timberwolves: Start a series of two games against the Nuggets, beginning Sunday at home before playing in Denver on Tuesday.

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