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Magic 108, Timberwolves 102: Birch, Biyombo stifle Wolves inside

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This matchup seemed like an easy W for the T-Wolves, but their greatest strength became their greatest weakness.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Entering into their matchup with the Orlando Magic, the Minnesota Timberwolves were No. 6 in the league in points in the paint and No. 15 in rebounding. The Magic would turn those strengths into weaknesses in their 108-102 win at home on Tuesday.

For the star-laden Timberwolves who were riding a five-game win streak, this game seemed like a walkover against a Magic team that possessed the longest losing streak in the NBA at 7 games. What they didn’t expect was that unheralded centers Khem Birch and Bismack Biyombo would dominate their one-two punch of Karl-Anthony Towns and Taj Gibson, one of the most formidable inside duos in the league.

The pair of Magic men combined for 22 points, 26 rebounds and nine blocks as they took turns controlling the interior. While the Wolves still scored 52 points in the paint, the Magic thrived off of 18 second-chance points and a 51 to 37 rebounding margin.

Speaking on the play of the two Magic centers, Aaron Gordon said, “They’re just fun to have on the floor. They always make the hustle play. They make the right play. They’re athletic. They run up and down the floor. They have a ton of energy, so those are guys you love to play with. Just their physicality.”

The Timberwolves are one of the few old-school teams left in the league, attempting the third-fewest number of threes per game in the league. After their primary offense was shut down by Birch and Biyombo, they could not adapt to shooting from outside.

Speaking of shooting from outside, it was a huge night for Evan Fournier, who notched a career-high scoring mark of 32 points. He was 6-of-12 from downtown and scored 15 of the Magic’s 26 points in the third quarter as they avoided the familiar post-halftime collapse.

It was just another day at the office for the Frenchman, however. “I was just trying to be aggressive,” said Fournier, “made a lot of threes. Honestly, nothing different. I just made my shots tonight.”

As if this wasn’t enough excitement in this game, Arron Afflalo of the Magic and Nemanja Bjelica of the Timberwolves got into an altercation midway through the second quarter where Afflalo threw two punches and Bjelica ended it by getting him in a headlock. No news yet on what the punishment will be, but Afflalo appeared to be the instigator.

The Orlando Magic (13-31) will hit the road yet again for this next game to take on the Cleveland Cavaliers (26-17). The previous two meetings in this series have been interesting to say the least, as the Magic won the first one in a 114-93 blowout and narrowly lost the second 131-127.