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Wolves 110, Lakers 92: Karl-Anthony Towns Heard All the Noise, But His Game Is Louder

The Timberwolves put the league on notice, demolish the Lakers In their only ESPN game of the season

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Golden State Warriors v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

On the night the franchise dedicated their media room to legendary broadcaster Tom Hanneman, the Minnesota Timberwolves celebrated their beloved “Hanny” with a 110-92 domination of LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and the COVID-ravaged Los Angeles Lakers.

Earlier today, the Timberwolves and Lynx held a ceremony commemorating all the work that Hanneman did for the two franchises in his unmatched five decades in sports broadcast journalism in the Twin Cities.

The Athletic’s Jon Krawczynski wrote a fantastic piece on Hanneman ahead of the dedication that beautifully captured who Hanny was and why he meant so much to so many he met during his time around the franchise.

It felt different walking into the arena today.

I was born and raised in South Minneapolis. I grew up with Hanneman everywhere in my house. If I had a TV on in the kitchen, basement or living room, it was a safe bet Hanneman was making me laugh with a witty remark or perfectly summing up my feelings as a Wolves or Twins fan, win or lose. All my life, it has felt like Hanny was my friend. That constant comfort that his sense of humor and smile delivered me — and hundreds of thousands of sports fans across the region — is something I miss every day.

Before the game, Karl-Anthony Towns was honored with the NBA Cares Community Assist Award for his Community Coat drive that helped get over 600 coats for homeless youth in the Twin Cities.

9:10 PM tip. ESPN. Four hall of famers on the opposing bench.

The Timberwolves knew the task at hand and. Towns and his short-handed wolf pack had that collective look in their eyes and fire in their soul that burned intensely all night, despite every attempt their ice cold offense made to extinguish a flame Target Center hasn’t felt had in years.

The team was missing Anthony Edwards, the heart that whose beat pumps life into Wolves fans and their desperate clamor for on-court destruction, and internally beloved veteran Taurean Prince. Both players entered into the NBA’s health and safety protocols this morning prior to shootaround. Both are asymptomatic, feeling fine and were not at shootaround this morning, per head coach Chris Finch.

Towns knew would be facing single-coverage in the post and that he had to be aggressive without Edwards to set the tone early on.

Los Angeles Lakers v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

“I wanted to set the standard. I wanted to try to impose myself into the game real quick, understanding Ant’s not here,” Towns said postgame. “We offensively have got to pick up a lot of the slack, so just trying to be really aggressive from the beginning. Let it be known how we needed to play tonight. Set the tone for everybody and everyone responded.”

Finch gave glowing reviews of his superstar big man, asserting his belief that there’s nobody better than Towns on the block.

“I think that was his goal coming into the season, to re-establish himself as a premier big in this league. So when he gets these matchups he’s bringing his best game. What I really admire about him right now is he’s doing it in the flow of what we need,” Finch said. “And I think he’s the best post player with his back to the basket in the league. When he gets a one-on-one matchup, no matter who it is, he has great confidence in himself and his ability to get to his spots and make his shot.”

Towns registered 10 first quarter points in impressive fashion, going right at Davis and the teeth of the Los Angeles defense in the post.

Both teams combined for an unprecedented 1/26 from 3-point land in the first quarter, which was a theme throughout the night that the Wolves managed to overcome by dropping in big buckets in key moments (and that Davis played only 20 minutes because of ankle and knee injuries).

Towns continued his dominance in the second. James had zero interest in taking the game into his own hands and guard Towns after Davis left with an injury, so Frank Vogel tried putting DeAndre Jordan on him. It didn’t go well. The Big KAT splashed two triples and drew a shooting foul on a post up. Simply put, Los Angeles had no answer for Towns in what was a diversely dominant night on the offensive end.

He finished the game with 28 points on 11/20 shooting, 10 rebounds, four assists, a steal, and three blocks, including one of the best plays I’ve ever seen from Towns defensively.

Patrick Beverley has been excellent since he returned from a left groin strain and continued that again tonight, notably in the second quarter, when Beverley was promptly issued a tech for taunting Lakers guard Rajon Rondo after a score.

What the cameras didn’t catch was Beverley rocking the baby all the way down the court and throughout the Lakers technical free throw while D’Angelo Russell egged him on.

Malik Beasley and Russell really came on strong late in the second quarter, delivering back-to-back triples in the closing 1:15 of the half to push the Minnesota lead from three out to eight and give them some breathing room entering the break.

Fittingly, the team’s halftime Hanneman tribute video included his legendary “Take that LeBron!” call that so many of us will hear in our heads forever.

Out of the halftime break, Beasley picked up where he left off in the first. He connected on a pair of triples after diming up Jarred Vanderbilt on a nice freelance alley-oop out of a busted corner hammer screen.

Towns got in on the dunking action, too.

Vanderbilt had a wail of game; the Kentucky Wildcat scored only four points, but had 16 rebounds (eight of each kind), three steals, and two blocks, one of which was this emphatic rejection of greatest of all-time.

But his offensive rebounding is where he is providing the most value to an offense on the mend.

“I look at it like my points, me generating extra possessions and so when I kick it out, get another three or an assist two or three or hockey assists, whatever you call it, I just look at it like my points,” Vanderbilt said. “Just doing all the little stuff that might not show up in the stat book. It’s game changing, it’s winning plays. Game-changing plays. Gets the team going and changes the momentum.”

Jaylen Nowell made his presence felt, thanks in part to Beverley for lighting a fire in the bench unit that lost control of the game early in the second quarter.

“After he did that we all woke up, for real. I mean, it’s everything. He’s one of the best leaders I’ve ever had,” Nowell said. “So, end of the day, he’s been in the league for about 10 years. So we all look up to him and everything he says we all listen and we all do our best to be out there. He played on so many playoff teams, so he knows about where we want to get to and we all understand that. So everything he says we all listen.”

Nowell cooked up 14 big points, including 10 in the second half, on an impressive combination of off-the-dribble attacks and spot-up 3s. He has worked a long time for a consistent opportunity, and seems to be in line for one moving forward with the Wolves.

“It’s everything I could ask for. Ever since I came in I wanted to show that I can take that responsibility,” Nowell said. “And I’ve worked very hard, so I just trusted work when I got in there, it wasn’t anything special. Just make sure to be aggressive. That’s really it. No over-thinking, no really anything. It’s as simple as that.”

His performance helped get the Wolves to the finish line, where they celebrated with their new minority owner Alex Rodriguez.

The Wolves won their third straight game and move to 14-15 on the season. Minnesota is now 2-0 with a total margin of +42 against the Lakers this season. Chris Finch’s group will host the Luka Dončić-less Dallas Mavericks at home on Sunday.