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Summer League: Karl-Anthony Towns Makes a Statement

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In his strongest game yet, Towns showed exactly what he can do for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Timberwolves lost to the Portland Trail Blazers late on Wednesday night, 82-77. They will not progress in the Las Vegas Summer League tournament round, and their summer league experience will be complete on Friday with a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. However, last night's game was all about Karl-Anthony Towns.

Towns played all but three minutes and fifty-three seconds of this game, and was a force. He finished the game with 20 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, two steals and three blocks. If the rest of the weakened Wolves roster had been able to finish and/or catch Towns' passes, he would have had several more assists. His jumper was working, he was able to get to the hoop, he missed no free throws. This was the number one pick looking like the number one pick.

Towns, as has been the case throughout the week, was consistently double-teamed, and used that to demonstrate his stellar passing ability.

"I just use it to my advantage, allowing the double team to come to me, because I know I'm going to make a good pass out of it," he said after the game.

Good pass, on many occasions, is quite an understatement.

This was the play, watching live, that actually drew a verbal response.

"You don't necessarily see where he can find open guys until you actually see it in person," coach Ryan Saunders said after the game.

You could see Towns make the gesture for Payne to move to the hoop, but the sheer audacity of the pass, not to mention its successful completion, was breathtaking.

Towns was also a threat, but a controlled threat, on defense. For the tournament round, the ten foul limit was reduced to the normal six foul limit. After taking advantage of the ten foul limit, Towns proved that he could choose not to foul and still play great defense. He did not commit a single foul until the 44 second mark in the second quarter, and he still did things like this:

and this:

"You gotta change the game up a little bit," he said. "There were some times I could have went up for blocks. I was being very conservative."

Even playing conservatively, he was able to be a force on defense. It may only be one game, but this was very reassuring to the worry of Towns dealing with constant foul trouble during the regular season.

Towns, however, still does not take kindly to losing.

"I lose some sleep from these losses," he said. "I'm very competitive, I want to win at everything I do, and these losses really hurt me a lot. But you just want to go out there and you want to continue getting better, want to keep learning, come back the next game and try to win again."

Other Notes and Observations

  • As noted above, the Wolves will play their final game in Las Vegas on Friday afternoon, at 5:30pm CT at the Thomas & Mack Center. The game will be televised once again on NBA TV.
  • Ryan Saunders said after the game that Kevin Martin will join the team in Vegas tomorrow for the last couple of days of practice. Freshly signed Nemanja Bjelica watched the game courtside with general manager Milt Newton, and Andrew Wiggins continued to be with the team.
  • If my memory is correct, the only members of the (currently signed) full Wolves roster that have not joined the team for part of the time in Las Vegas are now Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic, Shabazz Muhammad and Anthony Bennett.
  • The Wolves signed guard Brandon Fields to their summer league team, essentially just for this game. "We had a couple guys missing, undermanned and our backup point guard literally just showed up at shootaround today," Saunders said. Tyus Jones and Zach LaVine were both NWT-ESPYs for this game.
  • Tyler Stone started in place of Adreian Payne today. He played the first 4:55, then Payne came in and Stone did not play for the rest of the game.
  • Payne (3-9) and Lorenzo Brown (4-12) both struggled shooting the ball and were both at fault for many of Towns' non-assists. Both did get to the line regularly (Payne 6-8, Brown 8-9) and scored in double figures again (13 and 16 points respectively).
  • Ivan Aska, who did not play in tonight's game, has reportedly signed with ALBA Berlin in Germany. Kyle Barone, who also did not play in tonight's game, was not so lucky.