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Wolves 116, Wizards 111: Karl-Anthony Towns

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During Sunday night’s win in Golden State, Karl-Anthony Towns flipped the Wolves’ momentum on its head. Tonight, he carried his team to a thrilling victory in Washington D.C.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Washington Wizards Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight’s game started slow, with a seemingly lethargic Wolves team lapsing on defense and missing open shots on the other end. Though Towns started 2-3 from the floor, the Wolves trailed 14-10 when a timeout was called five minutes into the first quarter. But Tyus Jones gave the offense a spark off of the bench, attacking for two easy layups, and the Wolves trailed by only one, 25-26, at the end of the quarter.

While Nemanja Bjelica started just 1-5 from the floor, he contributed four rebounds (two offensive), two assists, a block and a steel.

To start the second quarter, Jamal Crawford was magnificent. The crafty veteran hit two quick baskets—a two and a three—and set-up Gorgui Dieng for two free-throws. A quick 7-0 Wolves run forced the Wizards to take a timeout. But through most of the game, especially in the second quarter, the Wizards were the more aggressive team. Backup center Ian Mahinmi frustrated the Wolves with offensive rebounds and pesky defense.

The Wizards carried a 59-53 lead into the half, outshooting the Wolves from beyond the arc (4-11 to 1-9) and the free-throw line (9-12 to 6-8).

In the third, when most of the Wolves looked a step slow, Towns kept the team competitive with 14 points all on his own. Through three quarters, Towns and Taj Gibson had combined for 16-22 (73%) from the field while the rest of the team shot just 17-47 (36%). But Towns would need help if the Wolves were going to mount a comeback.

And he got it in the fourth. After starting 2-11, Bjelica hit his first five shots of the final frame to give the Wolves a boost. Not only that, Andrew Wiggins made three buckets including one bail-out jumper with the shot clock winding down and Crawford had a key layup and drew a late foul while Tyus Jones organized the Wolves comeback before relinquishing to Jeff Teague to close the game.

But Towns was the man of the night. He followed his 14 third quarter points with six in the fourth. Both came from deep; the first with 8:52 to play, and the second with just 29 seconds to play. Another night, more clutch Towns:

“Karl was big shot after big shot […] He missed one in Minneapolis, he said he wasn’t going to miss two,” Tom Thibodeau said after the game.

And following a brief hiccup on an inbound pass between Teague and Wiggins, the savvy point guard sealed the game with a steal and breakaway dunk.

The Wolves will enjoy two days off before Friday’s matchup with the San Antonio Spurs with a sweet taste in their mouth. After tonight’s 116-111 showing, they’ve now won two consecutive games against formidable playoff competition and sit at a respectable 4-3 since Jimmy Butler’s injury. Thank you, Karl-Anthony Towns.

Notes:

  • Derrick Rose saw minutes for the second consecutive matchup, and he proved far more serviceable tonight than he was on Sunday. He was 0-2 shooting, but he was plenty active on defense and avoided costly mistakes. Once again, he played exclusively alongside Tyus Jones.
  • After a frustrating first three quarters, Wiggins flipped a switch to be a key contributor in the Wolves comeback. He was phenomenal on defense and aggressive on offense. While it’s easy to focus on these consistencies, they likely wouldn’t have won without him shifting gears.
  • Cole Aldrich sighting! Not even during garbage time!
  • Their second straight victory brings the Wolves to 40-29 on the season, tying them for the franchise’s most wins in a season since 2004 (2014: 40-44).