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Wiggins, Timberwolves give Saunders first victory

The Minnesota Timberwolves mob head coach Ryan Saunders (middle) after defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Minnesota won 119-117, giving Saunders his first victory as head coach. Alonzo Adams / USA TODAY Sports

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Andrew Wiggins scored a season-high 40 points as the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 119-117 on Tuesday night, Jan. 8.

It was Minnesota's first game under interim coach Ryan Saunders, who replaced Tom Thibodeau on the bench. Thibodeau was fired Sunday after the Timberwolves' home win over the Lakers.

A Minnesota turnover with 15.5 seconds left gave the Thunder one last chance, but two Russell Westbrook 3-point attempts missed the mark and Paul George's desperation putback went wide to give the Timberwolves their third consecutive win.

The Timberwolves hit 32 of their 40 free throws, with Oklahoma City making just 19 of 26. Wiggins was 16 of 18 from the free throw line.

Minnesota had 15 offensive rebounds.

The game was delayed for more than five minutes with 5:16 remaining in the third quarter after Oklahoma City's Nerlens Noel went up for an attempted block against Wiggins.

As Wiggins elevated, his elbow caught Noel flush to the face, dazing him. As Noel fell, he couldn't brace himself and hit his head on the floor.

Noel, who appeared to be knocked out by the contact, was eventually taken off on a stretcher.

A minute later, Minnesota's Jeff Teague and Oklahoma City's Dennis Schroder got into a shoving match after a Westbrook layup. After Schroder's initial shove, Teague followed up with two of his own. Teague was called for a double technical and ejected after a review.

Minnesota got off to a hot start in the second quarter, building a 13-point lead less than five minutes into the quarter.

But the Thunder scored 29 points in the final 7:17 of the half to tie the score going into the break.

Much of that came with Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns on the bench. Towns played less than nine minutes in the first half after picking up his third foul with 6:35 to go before half.

Towns was 8 of 14 from the field and finished with 20 points.

George led the Thunder with 27 points, hitting five 3-pointers. Westbrook added 25 points and 16 assists while Steven Adams scored 20.

Robb Jeffries

Robb Jeffries is a news coordinator for Forum News Service. He is a graduate of the University of North Dakota and previously served as a reporter and copy editor for the Grand Forks Herald. Reach him at rjeffries@forumcomm.com and follow him on Twitter at @robbjeffries.