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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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Think your home value is soaring? Talk to a Missouri farmer

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Think your home value is soaring? Talk to a Missouri farmer

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Fourth-generation corn and soybean farmer Jeff Frank doesn’t feel rich, but simply based on the skyrocketing value of his land in northwest Iowa, it’s an apt way to describe him, even if he laughs at the idea.

He lives in the same nearly century-old house, grows veggies in the family garden and shops at the same grocery store about 15 miles (24 kilometers) down the road. “We live the same way we have all of our lives,” he said.

Still, even if Frank’s life hasn’t changed, the several hundred acres he owns about 80 miles (129 kilometers) northwest of Des Moines have suddenly made him worth millions of dollars.

It may come as a surprise to city dwellers excited by their home values that countless farmers like Frank are actually experiencing a real estate boom that makes residential prices pale in comparison. While median existing-home prices rose by 15.8% in the U.S. last year, farmland values went up about double that rate in places like Iowa.

“I’m definitely surprised by the magnitude,” said Wendong Zhang, an economist at Iowa State University who oversees an annual farmland value survey.

The rising values, especially in the Midwest, are due to high prices being paid for the key commodity crops of corn and soybeans, plentiful harvests in recent years coupled with low-interest rates and optimism the good times will continue.

But they’re a mixed blessing. They’re enriching farmers who already have a lot of land, but making it much harder for small operators or younger farmers starting out to get land unless they happen to inherit it.

Most purchases are by operations that see the value of larger scale, seizing the chance to buy nearby land.

“If you miss this opportunity, you may not get another chance,” Zhang said, describing the current mood.

As for consumers, higher land costs typically don’t affect grocery prices.

Historically, farmland values rise and fall, but in the past couple decades they have mostly risen, and in the past year they have risen a lot — 33% in Frank’s part of the state and 29% throughout Iowa, one of the nation’s top agricultural states. Agricultural prices also have soared elsewhere in the Midwest and have climbed in most other parts of the country, too.

Federal Reserve Banks in Chicago and Kansas City reported double-digit increases in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Missouri and Nebraska.

In Iowa, average farmland has risen from $7,559 an acre in 2020 to $9,751 an acre in 2021.

Nationally, farmland was up an average of 7% but that doesn’t include the last half of 2021, when prices really took off in many areas.

Farmland prices have even climbed in California despite concerns about persistent drought. In 2021, the average prices of $10,900 an acre was up 9% from 2020.

The land purchases augment an existing national trend of more agricultural production coming from ever-larger farms.

Dan Sumner, an agricultural economist at the University of California-Davis, credits some of the rising value in switching to higher-value crops, such as replacing alfalfa with nut trees.

Overall, though, Sumner said farmers are feeling good about their future.

“It reflects confidence in the economics of agriculture,” he said.

The upswing follows tumultuous years of trade wars, market breakdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic and drought in much of the West.

For individual farmers, the biggest benefit of rising values is that they can borrow money at better rates for annual needs like seed and fertilizer and longer-term investments like tractors and even more land.

The high prices have prompted plenty of people to buy and sell land, leading to a record of $765 million in agricultural land sales last year overseen by Farmers National Company, one of the nation’s largest landowner services companies.

Randy Dickhut, a Farmers National real estate broker in Omaha, Nebraska, said a more typical year would see about $500 million in sales.

“It’s been very busy,” Dickhut said. “It’s certainly easy to sell.”

But Holly Rippon-Butler, who runs a dairy with her parents in upstate New York, called the farmland prices increases “just nuts.”

“The hard reality is, buying land is almost impossible unless you have some preexisting source of generational family wealth,” said Rippon-Butler, who works with the National Young Farmers Coalition, an organization the among other priorities advocates for policy changes and public funding that would enable more people to have access to land.

Given high land prices, Rippon-Butler said beginning farmers she encounters typically work as little as a quarter-acre of land and see 20 acres as a relatively large operation. Many farmers also rent land, and as values rise, so do rental rates.

Frank, the farmer in northwest Iowa, said that even though he’s technically wealthier now, it hard for him to expand his holdings as he prepares to pass along the property to the next generation.

“I have a son who farms with me and of course he’d like to expand but buying farmland right now is a big undertaking,” he said. “Even for a small farm you’re talking about millions of dollars.”

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Ravens sign FB/TE Ben Mason, a 2021 draft pick, to reserve/future deal

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Ravens sign FB/TE Ben Mason, a 2021 draft pick, to reserve/future deal

Almost five months after leaving Baltimore, Ben Mason is a Raven again. The fullback-tight end, a fifth-round pick of the Ravens last year who bounced around in his rookie season, joined the team’s 90-man offseason roster Friday after signing a reserve/future deal.

Mason, the No. 184 overall pick, was the final selection of the Ravens’ 2021 draft class. But the Michigan product struggled to make an impact in the preseason, and he was waived at the end of training camp. Rather than sign with the Ravens’ practice squad, Mason headed to New England’s.

He never appeared in a game for the Patriots, who released him in November. Mason joined the Chicago Bears’ practice squad in December but was not signed to a reserve/future deal at the end of the season.

The 6-foot-3, 256-pound Mason is a potential replacement for Pro Bowl fullback Patrick Ricard, a pending free agent. Under offensive coordinator Greg Roman, the Ravens have typically used heavier personnel packages that showcase versatile blockers.

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Avalanche finished 5-0 in seven-day stretch. The grind continues Saturday against the Canadiens

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Avalanche finished 5-0 in seven-day stretch. The grind continues Saturday against the Canadiens

LOS ANGELES — Winning big is common for the NHL’s highest-scoring team. Winning ugly can be beautiful, too.

The high-flying but exhausted Avalanche proved over two games in Southern California that all victories count the same. The Avs won’t look to repeat their “style” performances in Anaheim and L.A., but under the circumstances, coach Jared Bednar said he was “pretty proud of our group.”

Colorado (27-8-3) finished 5-0 in a seven-day span that included two back-to-back stretches. Outshot 34-15 through two periods Thursday against the Kings, the Avs received great goaltending from Darcy Kuemper and timely goals in a 4-1 victory that extended their points streak to 11 games (10-0-1).

“We had a talk after the second period and just said, ‘We just got to come together. We got to find a way to get it done. It’s ugly. So we’re going to simplify and not try to do all the things we normally do when we’re full of energy and we’re executing at a high pace.’ We weren’t doing that tonight,” Bednar said.

“They were making it difficult on us. They defend really well. You just got to stay together in a pack and take care of the puck better than we did in the first two periods — and we did that.”

Colorado, which defeated Anaheim 2-0 on Wednesday, outshot the Kings 12-7 in the third period, tacking on two goals from what was a 2-1 lead.

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