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Wolves 126, Hawks 114: KAT and the Stat

Led by his franchise-record 56 points, Karl-Anthony Towns got the Wolves back on track Wednesday night against the Hawks.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Minnesota Timberwolves Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

KATastrophe averted.

After suffering their worst loss of the season Monday night against the lowly Memphis Grizzlies, the vibe surrounding the Minnesota Timberwolves was extremely dreadful. With eight teams desperately fighting for seeds 3-8 in the Western Conference, losing at home against a team more focused on getting ping pong balls than getting buckets was not an ideal way to start the week.

How would the Wolves respond with another bottom-feeder coming to town? The only way they know how ... in record breaking fashion.

Led by a masterful performance from Karl-Anthony Towns, the Wolves righted the ship Wednesday night, holding off the pesky Atlanta Hawks 126-114. Towns finished the game with 56 points (including 6-for-8 from three), 15 rebounds, 4 assists, and one new addition to the Wolves record books (more on that in a minute).

While Monday’s KATatonic performance was laced with low energy and a dreadful opening quarter, Towns made it his personal mission to bring it early and often on Wednesday, displaying all facets of his game on his way to a 26-point first half:

KAT wasn’t the only Wolves player bringing the juice in the first half. Tyus Jones, older brother of 2018 Minnesota Mr. Basketball Tre Jones, came out of the gates on hyper speed, forcing two offensive fouls while also swiping these two steals in his first six minutes of the game:

With Tyus at the helm, the Wolves outscored the Hawks 23-12 in the first half, flipping a 28-25 deficit into 48-40 second quarter lead. Even when sent to the bench, Tyus’s propensity for thievery couldn’t be stopped:

Jones finished with only 2 points on 1-6 shooting (cue Derrick Rose stans warming up their Twitter fingers), but paced the Wolves with a team-high 9 assists in 21-minutes. The 9 assists were just the third time in Tyus’s career that he had dished out nine or more assists in a game.

While Tyus brought the defense and Andrew Wiggins brought the efficiency (17 points on 7-for-13 shooting, the clear star of the evening was Mr. Towns, whose career-high 56 points not only set a franchise record, but also put him in some “elite” company as only the fourth Wolves player in franchise history to score 50+ points in a game (Mo Williams—52, Kevin Love—51, and Corey Brewer—51).

Could KAT feel that a big performance like this was brewing? “Nah it just happens,” Towns said postgame.

“My teammates got me open and we had great ball movement. We had 30, 33 assists, the ball was moving everywhere, everyone was touching the ball. Just one of those nights where the last pass was just fine to me in a good spot and a good situation and my teammates trusted me with the ball.”

The Wolves did indeed finish with 33 assists, moving their record to 18-4 when they reach the 25-assist threshold. Tom Thibodeau echoed his franchise center’s sentiments about ball movement, adding “I thought we made the extra pass. I liked the rhythm we had on the threes. Offensively it was terrific.”

There’s no doubt that Monday’s performance still stings, but the Wolves head coach did like how his team responded in the face of adversity.

“When you have a loss or disappointment, not to dwell but to learn from it. I think that’s the important part. We were all disappointed and we wanted to do better. You take what you can and learn as much as you can from it and get ready for the next one. They’re sensing that the intensity is being ramped up.”

While Wednesday night at the Target Center was truly one for the books, Towns was quick to remind everyone that it’s not about celebrating one night’s performance but rather ending thirteen years of franchise misery:

The Wolves win, paired with another Grizzlies win and a breathtaking finish in Utah, puts the Wolves back in the 7-seed in the Western Conference, only 1.5 games back of the 4th seeded Oklahoma City Thunder. Buckle up, folks!


Other Game Notes

  • In addition to 56 points, Towns also gobbled up 15 rebounds, giving him his league-leading 63rd double-double of the season (and 176th of his career).
  • Towns joins just 19 other players, including Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan, in NBA history to record 50+ points and 15+ rebounds in a single game. Additionally, Towns becomes the youngest player to record 50 points/15 rebounds since Shaq in 1994...coincidentally against the Wolves (h/t John Meyer).
  • Jeff Teague, who has quietly been the Wolves MVP since Jimmy Butler went down with a knee injury, finished the night with 11 points on 4-of-12 shooting, marking his 18th double-figure game in the last 19 contests. Teague also finished the night with eight assists and two steals.
  • Minnesota shot 53.3% from the field, marking the 27th time the Wolves have shot 50% or better this season. The team is now 21-6 when meeting this mark (h/t Timberwolves PR).
  • Continuing the trend of shattering records, the Wolves also broke their franchise record for three-pointers made in a season (601). They have now made 614 threes (and counting).
  • The pride of St. Louis Park and Minnesota’s own Mike Muscala also set a new career high for points scored with 24, including 4-for-6 from three.
  • John Collins, selected three spots after Justin Patton in the 2017 NBA Draft, had a quiet 10 points and 5 rebounds, but flashed the type of speed and athletisticm that should make Gucci Mane and 2 Chainz very hopeful for the franchise’s future.