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Wizards tasked with limiting the Towns and Wiggins show in Minnesota

Wizards tasked with limiting the Towns and Wiggins show in Minnesota

The last time the Wizards and Timberwolves met, six Minnesota players reached double figures, Washington scored just 16 points in the third quarter and the Timberwolves won by 22—all without Karl-Anthony Towns on the floor due to suspension.

Towns will suit up this time, however, when the Wizards travel to Minnesota looking to snap their three-game winning streak. The Timberwolves have won two straight, most recently beating the San Antonio Spurs 129-114 in game Towns and forward Andrew Wiggins combined for 58 points.

With all due respect to Robert Covington (11.8 PPG), Jeff Teague (13.9 PPG, 6.3 APG) and rookie Jarrett Culver, Towns and Wiggins have been the driving forces behind the Minnesota offense, which ranks fifth in the NBA with 117.2 points per game.

That duo will enter Friday night as the biggest stars to watch on the Timberwolves.

Karl-Anthony Towns

The Wizards lucked out Nov. 2, when Towns missed the first of two games after getting involved in an altercation with Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid three nights prior. Yet Minnesota still outscored Washington 56-24 in the paint, led by Covington and Gorgui Deng.

Those problems will likely continue Friday. Towns is averaging 25.8 PPG and 12 RPG while keeping defenders honest with a 40.7 shooting percentage from behind the 3-point line. The two-time All-Star has played up to his resume so far this season, but one area he’s taken strides in is his passing.

Towns has assisted on 21.8% of points scored while he’s been on the floor this season, easily his career high. The emergence of Wiggins as a legitimate scoring threat has helped boost that figure, but Towns has been looking to pass much more this season than in years past.

Andrew Wiggins

The former No. 1 overall pick has always been able to score in bunches, but he’s turned his game up to another level this season. Wiggins has dropped at least 30 points in four of his last five games, shooting well from behind the arc but doing most of his damage in the lane and from midrange.

Wiggins’ contributions have opened up the rest of the offense to focus more on their individual assignments. Teague and Culver don’t need to score in high volumes and can instead be the ball distributors that they are. Covington can work out of the post more frequently and spot up from three when he has the opportunities.

It’s turned the Timberwolves’ offense into a well-oiled machine that runs like it’s fresh out of the factory. Under head coach Ryan Saunders, the Timberwolves are playing as well as they have ever have with Towns in tow. If Wiggins and Towns find a rhythm early, this game could be over before it even gets started.

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Former NBA Commissioner David Stern has emergency brain surgery

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USA Today Sports Images

Former NBA Commissioner David Stern has emergency brain surgery

The NBA says former Commissioner David Stern suffered a sudden brain hemorrhage Thursday and had emergency surgery.

The league says in a statement its thoughts and prayers are with the 77-year-old Stern's family.

Stern served exactly 30 years as the NBA's longest-tenured commissioner before Adam Silver replaced him on Feb. 1, 2014. Stern has remained affiliated with the league with the title of commissioner emeritus and has remained active in his other interests, such as sports technology.

Zach Brook contributed to this report.

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Wizards, Rui Hachimura get a glimpse at Rookie of the Year favorite Ja Morant

Wizards, Rui Hachimura get a glimpse at Rookie of the Year favorite Ja Morant

For a game featuring a 7-16 Wizards team and the 8-16 Grizzlies, Saturday's matchup packs plenty of intrigue. 

With Rui Hachimura showing plenty of promise in Washington and Ja Morant nearly running away with the Rookie of the Year Award, we're all in for a classic battle of two of the game's best newcomers. 

Outside of that for the Wizards, Saturday night should absolutely be a win. The Grizzlies are 24th in NET rating (25th offense, 21st defense) and while their young core is as promising as any in the league, they don't quite know how to put together wins yet. 

Here's a breakdown of two players the Wizards should be wary of. 

Ja Morant

As we stated earlier with Morant, he's been far and away the best rookie this season. He's averaging 18.7 points, 6.4 assists and 3.2 rebounds on 46.3 percent from the field and 42.2 percent from three. 

Morant had the generational physical tools and exciting upside that got him drafted second overall, the question was whether he'd be able to put it all together at the NBA level, especially playing the hardest position in the league as a lead guard. 

It's safe to say he's answered almost all of those questions just 19 games into his career. 

The Wizards will have to contain his drives to the rim and force him into contested jump shots, which is a lot easier said than done for this defense. 

If they can't keep him in front and he starts breaking down the defense off the dribble, look out. He could mess around and get a triple-double. 

Jaren Jackson Jr.

Before the Grizzlies drafted Morant, Jackson was their crowned jewel prospect. Don't get me wrong, he's still one of the best young players in the league, it's just a testament with how good Morant has been. 

Jackson has the potential to be one of the best defenders in the league one day. When he's playing well, he provides the Grizzlies defense incredible versatility since he can switch onto nearly every position while being able to protect the paint and rebound at a high level. 

Then on the offensive end, Jackson can stretch the floor on pick and pops (37.8 percent 3P) and put the ball on the deck to attack closeouts. He truly is the embodiment of the modern NBA center. 

The Wizards have been used to paint-dominant centers after playing the Sixers and Nuggets over the last few weeks. Jackson just might present a better matchup for their injury-riddled frontcourt. 

Washington would be wise to use Moe Wagner to keep him stretched out of the paint and then take advantage of the Grizzlies suspect perimeter defense to get to the basket. That is, of course, if Wagner can stay on the floor. 

The Wizards and Grizzlies are scheduled to tip at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday, and you can catch all of our coverage on NBC Sports Washington.