Ryan Saunders won his first game as Minnesota interim coach and looks to post another triumph when the Timberwolves host the Dallas Mavericks on Friday. The 32-year-old Saunders was promoted to the top seat on the bench when the organization fired Tom Thibodeau on Sunday.

Minnesota has won three straight contests and six of its last nine and Saunders - the son of former Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders - liked what he witnessed from his team in the 119-117 road win against the Oklahoma City Thunder. "It's unbelievable how they stayed connected throughout the whole game," Saunders told reporters. "Down the stretch, there were so many times where we could have disbanded and then the crowd could have got into us. I can't say enough about that team." Dallas posted a 104-94 victory over the visiting Phoenix Suns on Wednesday and is three games below .500 at the midway point of its schedule. "We can be a lot better," center DeAndre Jordan told reporters afterward. "I'm definitely not satisfied and happy with where we are right now - we want to be better and that's not a negative thing. That's just real. We want to be better, we know we're better."

TV: 8 p.m. ET, FS Southwest (Dallas), FS North (Minnesota) LINE: Timberwolves -5 

ABOUT THE MAVERICKS (19-22): Rookie forward Luka Doncic reached the 30-point mark for the fourth time this season in the win over the Suns and he was solid all-around with 30 points, six rebounds, five assists, four 3-pointers and three steals. "Luka does crazy stuff all the time," Jordan told reporters after the club won for just the fourth time in 15 games. "So I'm not surprised by anything he does." Forward Harrison Barnes had 17 points against Phoenix thanks to hitting all 10 of his free-throw attempts but he was just 3-of-11 from the field and is 8-of-33 over the past three contests.



ABOUT THE TIMBERWOLVES (20-21): The players felt the environment was improved during Saunders' first game in place of stern taskmaster Thibodeau. "He fed off our energy, and we fed off his energy," Minnesota power forward Taj Gibson told reporters. "We were just trying to get a win for him." Small forward Andrew Wiggins certainly responded with season highs of 40 points and 10 rebounds for his sixth career double-double and he is averaging 27 points over the past five games.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. The Mavericks posted a 140-136 home win on Oct. 20 to snap a five-game losing streak against the Timberwolves.

2. Minnesota PF Derrick Rose (ankle) is expected to play Friday after missing six straight games.

3. Dallas PG Dennis Smith Jr. (back) and F Dirk Nowitzki (illness) could return after one-game absences.

PREDICTION: Timberwolves 105, Mavericks 100  Bet Now

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