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Bones Hyland erupts in Nuggets’ overtime loss to T-Wolves

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Bones Hyland erupts in Nuggets’ overtime loss to T-Wolves

If there’s a fine line between preseason basketball and regular season basketball, the Nuggets and the Timberwolves blurred it Friday night.

Even though it was the preseason, there was no love lost between Nikola Jokic and Karl-Anthony Towns, who wrangled throughout most of the night. But the story of the night was Bones Hyland, whose offensive eruption was marred by the Nuggets’ 114-112 overtime loss to Minnesota to drop to 0-3 on the preseason.

The rookie sunk what appeared to be a game-winning 3 late in regulation only to, inexplicably, concede a layup to force OT. The end of regulation and overtime was filled with lapses, turnovers and miscues that didn’t sit well with Michael Malone even though the game didn’t matter.

Led by Jokic, Michael Porter Jr. and Hyland, the Nuggets shattered their stated goal of 40 3-point attempts per game, going 21-of-58 from outside. Those three took 26 attempts alone.

Joker vs. KAT: The two All-NBA caliber centers locked horns like it was the conference finals. Jokic toyed with Towns on the interior en route to a near-triple-double, while Towns barked at Joker following his made baskets. Each possession that funneled through either star yielded bangs and bruises for both parties.

Halfway through the second quarter, Malone picked up a technical foul with Towns draped all over Jokic in the post. The tech was about protecting his star.

Towns had eight points in the first half, while Jokic padded his stats, dropping 10 points, six rebounds and five assists on his counterpart in 16 minutes. One of his dimes was a 3/4-length touchdown pass to Aaron Gordon where Jokic caught the T-Wolves sleeping. Another was a smooth slip pass to P.J. Dozier in transition.

Though Towns probably wouldn’t admit it, Jokic got the best of him. Joker finished with 10 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds in 26 minutes of action.

Bones hype: Hyland earned the second-half start alongside Jokic, Porter, Gordon and Dozier while Monte Morris rested.

The buzzing rookie may have won over the entire crowd with the ensuing 12 minutes. Hyland proceeded to hang 18 points in the third quarter, including five 3-pointers. His teammates were hunting for him, and Hyland didn’t hesitate when presented with a window. On the last one, Hyland had the Nuggets’ entire bench standing, with Dozier waving a towel as if to cool him off.

Not only did the run inspire confidence that Hyland might crack Malone’s rotation, it was an intriguing look with him alongside the starters. Hyland finished with 21 points, eight rebounds and four assists before fouling out in overtime.

Before the game, Malone pushed back on the narrative that he’s loath to give rookies a chance. He mentioned Jokic, Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangomez and Emmanuel Mudiay as examples.

“If you can help this team win, you will play,” Malone said prior to Hyland’s eruption.

Friday night only helped his cause.

Bench woes: And yet part of the reason the game was close was because Denver’s second unit struggled to find any rhythm offensively. In the first half, Denver’s five-man unit of Facu Campazzo, Austin Rivers, Hyland, JaMychal Green and Jeff Green combined for just 2-of-15 from the field. With three turnovers, Rivers was particularly sloppy with the ball.

The Nuggets were sitting on 24 points when Jokic subbed out with 3:28 left in the first quarter. When he returned, at the 7:43 mark of the second quarter, Denver had just 32 points.

Though JaMychal made an impact on the boards, no reserve outside of Hyland finished with more than five points in regulation. The sloppiness was epitomized when Campazzo, leading a fastbreak, threw a bad pass to a trailing Zeke Nnaji that resulted in a turnover. The Nuggets have two more games to go, both at OKC, to sort out their rotations before the regular season arrives.

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Wizards dunk all over the Wolves

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Wizards dunk all over the Wolves

The Timberwolves’ defense that’s been so good this season was, well, not Wednesday in the nation’s capital.

The Wizards got dunk, after dunk, after dunk, after dunk in their 115-107 home victory over Minnesota. Washington scored 68 points — including 34 of its 45 made field goals — in the paint.

Washington tallied 18 dunks, per the play by play.

Minnesota looked a step slow for much of the night, as guys like Jarred Vanderbilt, Anthony Edwards and Jaylen Nowell played through illness.

The Wolves held Washington to 30-percent shooting on non-paint shots, but that didn’t matter much, because the Wizards were able to get the ball into the interior with such ease.

Washington attacked Minnesota’s point of attack pick-and-roll defense, using ball movement to find one easy look inside after another.

Minnesota relies on its wings to come down from the corner to serve as the “low man” protecting the paint on drives to the rim. That spot was rarely filled Wednesday.

“We didn’t have low man, and our weak side kept pulling out,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said. “I don’t know if it was fear of shooting or whatnot.”

Finch and Co. tried everything to shore up the paint defense, switching up coverages multiple times. That even included what looked to be a 1-2-2 zone late in the game. On the first possession of that look, Montrezl Harrell tallied another slam.

Harrell finished with 27 points on 11 for 12 shooting. Fellow center Daniel Gafford added 18 points and 10 rebounds on 7 for 10 shooting.

“I think guys were being a step slow. We were reacting a little late, I feel like pretty much on everything — low man, X outs, switching and stuff like that,” Vanderbilt said. “It caused a little confusion. I felt like we were so focused on the high wall, trying to contain (Wizards star guard Bradley Beal) that we opened up the roll a lot, and the roll got pretty fast, giving them a little lane. …They took advantage of that tonight.”

Minnesota was beat in every sense of the physicality battle. Improved rebounding had been the catalyst for the team’s recent run of success, but the Wizards outrebounded the Wolves 52-39 on Wednesday.

It got so bad that Finch turned to a three-man grouping of Karl-Anthony Towns, Naz Reid and Vanderbilt — Minnesota’s primary three bigs — on the floor at once late in the game to see if anyone could grab a board.

It still didn’t really happen.

“There was just too much space interior-wise, so guys were able to hop around and re-position themselves,” Finch said. “We didn’t hit first.”

Offensively, Washington single-covered Towns for much of the night, often with smaller defenders such as Kyle Kuzma. It was almost as if the Wizards were daring Towns to beat them.

He did for much of the night, finishing with 34 points on 11 for 25 shooting before exiting the game late after he slipped off the rim on a dunk and landed on his tailbone. Towns said his X-Rays were negative, and he felt “much better” after the game.

“I feel better than I thought I was going to feel. I was in extreme pain for sure. I don’t know how much I can divulge of it,” he said. “Just going to have to deal with it.”

Towns wouldn’t commit to playing Friday in Brooklyn, noting he’ll have to see how he feels Friday.

“I’m not going to rush it. I almost tried to go back in tonight,” Towns said. “I don’t know. I don’t know much it would’ve gave. But that’s the game of basketball. You got to keep fighting.”

In allowing Towns to go off, Washington (14-8) prevented Minnesota’s other players to get into a rhythm. D’Angelo Russell had an off night offensively, going 3 for 18 from the field, and 1 for 12 from deep.

“I thought he had clean looks early, and late I thought he was trying to make something happen out of nothing,” Finch said of Russell. “Shot selection in the fourth overall was not very good for us.”

The Wolves (11-11) shot just 30 percent from 3-point range as a team. Anthony Edwards finished with 25 points.

“For all the bad that happened tonight, I thought we gave ourselves a chance. Which is a good sign to know that even when we play probably some of our worst basketball of the year, we still felt we should’ve won the game and we were right there and we should’ve won,” Towns said. “Just minor things we have to clean up and we do that we’ll be in a better position.”

BRIEFLY

The Timberwolves’ ninth-annual broadcast auction raised more than $104,000 for the Fastbreak Foundation — a new record.

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Board votes to close six St. Paul schools over two years, moving 2,040 students

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Board votes to close six St. Paul schools over two years, moving 2,040 students

The St. Paul school board voted Wednesday night to close five schools next fall and a sixth in 2023, displacing around 2,040 students in an effort to create larger and more “well-rounded” schools with greater appeal to parents.

“This is our chance to build a strong foundation,” board member Jessica Kopp said.

The consolidation is one-third smaller than what Superintendent Joe Gothard and his administration called for in October. It was apparent at a meeting Monday that most board members weren’t going to support the larger plan in the face of vocal opposition from three school communities in particular.

Those schools, LEAP High and Wellstone and Highwood Hills elementary schools, were spared from closure in the 5-2 vote Wednesday.

“I’m not proud of this vote,” said Yusef Carrillo, a short-term board member in his final meeting, who opposed the consolidation when it included his family’s school, Wellstone, but voted in favor of the modified plan Wednesday. “I know deep down that future compositions of the board will be hesitant to pick this up again and will have to pick up a worse version of this.”

The consolidation is a response to persistent enrollment declines — due largely to increased charter competition — that have only accelerated during the coronavirus pandemic. The St. Paul district is down 3,500 students in the last three years — nearly 10 percent of its K-12 enrollment. The trend figures to continue in the coming years because of low birth rates in the city.

Gothard hoped he could turn things around by forming larger elementary schools, each with enough revenue to hire teacher specialists in the arts, social studies and gifted education, as well as a counselor, social worker and nurse.

Opposing the plan were John Brodrick and Zuki Ellis, both of whom also voted against a two-school merger in 2016. Brodrick said he expected opposition from families affected by the closures, but he heard broad complaints about the behind-the-scenes administrative process that produced the recommendations.

“We can never expect to halt declining enrollment until we restore trust,” he said.

FIVE TO CLOSE IN 2022

The schools that will close next fall are:

  • Galtier Elementary, whose 207 students are to merge with nearby Hamline as Galtier becomes an early learning hub.
  • Jackson Elementary, with 268 students. Some students would go to Maxfield, while those in the Hmong Dual Language Immersion program would merge at Phalen Lake.
  • Parkway Montessori Middle School, with 188 students. It would reopen immediately as the middle school for Phalen Lake’s Hmong studies students.
  • John A. Johnson Elementary, whose 258 students would merge at Bruce Vento and get a new building on the east half of the Vento property in the coming years.
  • L’Etoile du Nord French Immersion’s lower campus, sending its 150 students in grades pre-K-1 to the upper campus; the lower campus would become an early learning hub.

MONTESSORI MOVING, SPANISH ISN’T

The board also approved several entangled moves involving the fall 2023 closure of Obama Elementary, which has 250 students but a capacity of 875.

First, 173 students from Cherokee Heights Montessori would merge at JJ Hill’s Montessori program next year. Following a renovation, JJ Hill would close and move its students to Obama in either 2024 or 2025.

Also next fall, Cherokee Heights would become a community school, taking on 139 students from Riverview, the other West Side school.

However, breaking with Gothard’s recommendation, the district isn’t moving any new students into the West Side — leaving those campuses with 383 students divided across two buildings with a combined capacity of 1,120.

Riverview will continue to operate its two-way Spanish-English immersion program. But it will not take on immersion students from Wellstone.

Instead, Wellstone will remain open, keeping its 253-student Spanish-English immersion program and its 275 students on the BioSmart science side.

Board members balked at Gothard’s call to split up Wellstone, which already has a healthy enough enrollment to offer a well-rounded education.

SMALL SCHOOLS

LEAP High School, another program the school board saved, has 125 students, all recent immigrants. Gothard wanted to move them to existing language academies inside comprehensive high schools, but community members said students feel safer in their own alternative school.

In Highwood Hills, the school board saved a school with a capacity of 599 but just 196 enrolled — well short of what’s needed to have two classes per grade. Gothard’s administration had suggested closing the school and then working with nearby Somali-American families to create a more appealing school, but board members were not convinced.

The district today has roughly 16,000 students in elementary grades and room for around 8,000 more. The scaled-back consolidation will shrink elementary capacity by 2,100 — compared to about 3,800 in Gothard’s proposal.

TWO VOTES

Before the final vote on Wednesday, board member Jim Vue and Brodrick supported a failed motion to leave every school open in 2022.

Just before the meeting, Vue said, “My son came home from school and … said, ‘Dad, don’t close my school.’ I finally realized that I hadn’t really grappled with that I was closing his school.”

Board member Chauntyll Allen said she’s not looking forward to closing schools, but “I do know that we need to make some drastic changes. … Not closing right now could be detrimental to moving forward.”

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Twins sign Dylan Bundy; have plenty of work left to do after lockout

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Twins sign Dylan Bundy; have plenty of work left to do after lockout

Three-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer is now a Met. Reigning American League Cy Young winner Robbie Ray will call Seattle home for the next five years. All-Star left-hander Kevin Gausman is going north of the border to Toronto.

Corey Seager and Marcus Semien, two of the top infielders on the market, both landed mega-deals with the Texas Rangers, and Javier Báez wound up with division-rival Detroit Tigers.

Many of the premier free agents have flown off the board in recent days in anticipation of a lockout. A flurry of activity marked the period of time ahead of the sport’s first work stoppage since the players’ strike of 1994-95.

The Twins made a move Wednesday, too, agreeing to a one-year, $4 million deal with starting pitcher Dylan Bundy. Bundy’s deal comes with a club option for $11 million in 2023 and a $1 million buyout. Minnesota’s seven-year, $100 million contract extension with center fielder Byron Buxton was also made official Wednesday.

And now, all will be quiet.

At 10:59 Wednesday night, the sport’s Collective Bargaining Agreement expired, with recent negotiations between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association failing to produce a deal.

Rosters are set until the lockout ends, transactions frozen for the foreseeable future. So, what shape is the Twins’ roster in at the moment?

Extending Buxton was a major offseason objective, and the Twins have now accomplished that. But aside from that, the Twins still have needs that must be addressed before spring training begins.

Bundy became the first free agent addition to the Twins’ rotation this offseason. The right-hander, who was selected No. 4 overall by the Orioles in the 2011 draft, has a career 4.72 earned-run average. With the Angels last season, he was 2-9 with a 6.06 ERA in 23 games, including 19 starts.

Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said the club had targeted Bundy as a trade candidate in the past.

“He dealt with some injuries towards the end of this year which I think caught up to him a little bit, but we feel like with a full offseason and a good plan going into spring training, this is a guy we think has real bounce-back ability, and (he’s) a guy we’ve always liked,” Falvey said.

While the free agent pitching market has been especially active and the Twins have been engaging in discussions, Falvey said they’ve looked at the trade market “maybe more so” than at free agents, having conversations with other teams about potential fits to bolster their rotation.

Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan, both rookies last season, figure to be in the rotation. But plenty of question marks remain.

“It’s always hard to find quality pitching and enough depth there,” Falvey said. “I think that’s going to be a big part of the rest of our offseason, continuing to find ways to add to it, both at the minor league level and at the major league level, the non-roster level and all of the above, to try and get as much depth as possible to help us through a season.”

The Twins remain in need of an answer at shortstop. Andrelton Simmons is a free agent. Top prospect Royce Lewis isn’t ready to assume the mantle yet. The Twins weren’t expected to be players at the top of a very strong shortstop market, but it’s still a position that will need to be addressed.

Buxton and Bundy aside, the only other moves the front office has made thus far have been minor. The Twins declined their mutual option on relief pitcher Alexander Colomé. They cut ties with pitchers John Gant, Danny Coulombe and Juan Minaya and utility player Willians Astudillo, among others. Outfielder Jake Cave was outrighted to St. Paul.

Roster subtractions have been happening since October. Roster additions will need to happen after the lockout ends. And when that time comes, whenever it might be, there’s still plenty left for the front office to accomplish.

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