Superstars come to play in the biggest moments.
They don’t run from the criticism or change their ways. They simply go out and put on a show when it matters most.
KAT On the Loose
It was clear to fans within the first couple possessions of Game 4 that Karl-Anthony Towns stepped in between the lines on the Target Center floor with a different mindset.
“When I caught the ball, I was angry. Just a bunch of rage and trying to find ways to dominated regardless of what they throw,” Towns said postgame. “A triple, quadruple, coach comes on the court and guards me as well. I don’t care. Just find ways to put the ball in the bucket.”
He attacked early and often, while controlling the glass on the opposite end of the floor.
KAT's first four possessions:— Jack Borman (@jrborman13) April 24, 2022
• Made 3
• Drawn shooting foul
• Ant attack for a bucket
• Drawn foul on the rebound
Involved on nearly everything offensively thus far
That “quickly get downhill” mindset fueled Towns to score 10 points in the first frame by way of seven free throws and a triple involving zero hesitation on the game’s first possession. KAT was engaged and involved with everything the Wolves were doing throughout all four quarters tonight — a clear improvement from his struggles in Games 2 and 3. Better yet, he kept his emotions in check all night long.
Patrick Beverley may have played a key role in helping Towns on that front.
Patrick Beverley undoubtedly had a conversation with KAT after Game 3.— Jack Borman (@jrborman13) April 24, 2022
Every time KAT thinks about getting too high or too low, he looks at Pat Bev.
You can see him stopping himself and remembering that Bev will be on him if he doesn't remain calm
Even when his shot wasn’t falling in the third quarter, he didn’t allow that to deter him from taking it to his defenders; he made five trips to the line that helped keep Grizzlies stars Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr. in foul trouble.
Towns saved his best for last.
Karl-Anthony Towns in the fourth quarter:— Jack Borman (@jrborman13) April 24, 2022
• 13 points
• 2/3 2PT | 2/2 3PT | 3/4 FT
• 2 rebounds
• 1 block
• 0 fouls
All of his points came with the score within five points. Extremely clutch, superstar performance from him down the stretch.pic.twitter.com/WF0qYCSgUy
The soon-to-be-All-NBA big man drained his biggest shot of the game with this 3 — coming after a challenge timeout that won Minnesota back possession. From my view court side, it was one of those shots that you just knew was money the second it left his fingertips.
Putting Towns in positions to shoot more 3s was clearly a part of Minnesota’s offensive focus tonight and it paid off in a major way. When he caught the ball above the break, he more regularly saw single coverage that he could take advantage of more easily both as a driver and a shooter.
Memphis crowded his airspace on the catch and Grizzlies players were frequently called for fouling him when Towns made a quick move, because he had defenders’ hands all over him.
When it was all said and done, the All-Star center finished with a playoff career-high 33 points on 8/17 shooting (14/17 on free throws), 14 rebounds, three assists, six turnovers (just one in the second half), a block, and perhaps most importantly he finished with only three fouls. Towns joined Kevin Garnett as the only two Wolves to put up a 30-point, 10-rebound line in a playoff game in franchise history.
He capped off his performance by converting two free throws with 4.4 seconds left to put it on ice.
“I knew it was good. The game was over,” Towns said.
Hopefully that mindset travels with him to Memphis.
A J-Mac Podium Game
Wolves guard Jordan McLaughlin did not play in Game 3, but I can confidently say that had he played, Minnesota would be leaving for Memphis in the morning with a 3-1 lead instead of a 2-2 series.
Chris Finch when asked why Jordan McLaughlin played tonight and didn't play in Game 3: "Sometimes you do stupid things."— Dane Moore (@DaneMooreNBA) April 24, 2022
He showed exactly why tonight in arguably the best game of his NBA career considering the stakes.
McLaughlin outscored Grizzlies star point guard Ja Morant 16-11 and was a team-high +6 in 14 minutes played. The biggest reason why? His 3-point shooting.
Jordan McLaughlin catch-and-shoot 3, assisted by Patrick Beverley pic.twitter.com/3KFmbVpj25— Timberwolves Clips (@WolvesClips) April 24, 2022
The former USC standout connected on all four of his fires from deep, with all of them coming in pivotal moments.
“Just let it fly. Everyone was telling me to be aggressive,” McLaughlin said after the game of his shooting mindset tonight.
Anthony Edwards — who did his postgame media session alongside McLaughlin — chimed in immediately after that.
“Go look at the film. USC. That’s the J-Mac y’all saw tonight,” Edwards said, before fielding a question about whether or not he had seen McLaughlin’s USC highlights.
“Yup, yup, yup, I have. He’s just so short man,” Edwards joked. “It’s just impressive. Look how small he is. He don’t let it bother him. He goes into the trenches, tries to get rebounds. Deflections people don’t see. He do all the little things. Not even talking about the bit shots. deflections, tipping the ball. A big might get the rebound, he go in and tip it and we grab it. Little things like that.“
Edwards was also quick to credit McLaughlin’s playmaking, adding that he doesn’t have to force anything when J-Mac is out there with him. Towns echoed a similar sentiment.
“Everyday he steps on the court, he always makes an impact,” Towns said. “You need someone like him, someone who comes off the bench and just in essence dominates the game, controls the game at such a pace. ... MVP of the game.”
Bench Power Outage
Minnesota’s bench shot 1/9 from the floor and scored seven points outside of McLaughlin. That includes zero points on zero shots from Malik Beasley, who was instrumental in the team’s Game 1 win on the road in Memphis.
Taurean Prince is clearly not 100% with his knee injury and is essentially only filling in for Jaden McDaniels when Big Mac is in foul trouble, which happened again tonight (five fouls). That makes McLaughlin’s emergence even more important for the remainder of this series.
Is he going to shoot 4/4 from deep again? Very likely not. But, if he can force the defense to respect his shot and use it to unlock open looks for his teammates after attacking close-outs, that’s a legitimate weapon for Wolves head coach Chris Finch to turn to if D’Angelo Russell continues to struggle with his shot.
You better believe Beasley is going to come out firing on the road on Tuesday night, but Minnesota desperately needs McDaniels to find some of his Game 1 magic to supplement the team’s offense, especially if Towns is unable to turn in another huge night.
Storylines to Monitor
Morant admitted he is not 100% after returning prior to the playoffs from a knee injury he suffered in March.
Ja Morant on what's missing:— Meghan Triplett (@Meghan_Triplett) April 24, 2022
"I'm not Ja right now...I'm not playing above the rim."
"I am almost there. Almost... It's not an excuse though."
He doesn’t appear to be hampered by his injuries that much when watching him because he possesses such breathtakingly insane athleticism and is still able to display it, but you never know. Hopefully Morant can get as healthy as possible as quickly as possible so he can get back to setting the SportsCenter Top 10 on fire in front of what will be a crazy crowd in Memphis for Game 5.
Minnesota did an excellent job defending him in the regular season and is continuing that work into the playoffs; how Morant responds may decide the Grizzlies’ fate.
Edwards checked out of the game after walking the ball up the floor in the first quarter.
Anthony Edwards is back on the Wolves' bench after he was helped to the locker room for an apparent leg injury. pic.twitter.com/aP66yj3uPA— ESPN (@espn) April 24, 2022
After initially being unable to put much weight on his right leg, he came running out of the tunnel less than 10 minutes later and re-entered the game shortly thereafter. Edwards went on to hit some big 3s, exploded to the rim for dunks and layups, and moved very well laterally on defense.
The rising star finished with 24 points on 14 shots, four rebounds, four assists and five stocks, but is banged up nonetheless.
“Man, listen. That be hurting,” Edwards said about his knee. “But we’re here. Everybody playing through something.”
With two days off, hopefully these two bright stars will be ready to go to battle again in what has been an exhilarating matchup thus far.
The win tonight guaranteed another home game for the Wolves, meaning we’ll see you back in Downtown Minneapolis on Friday for Game 6, potentially with a chance to win the series. But until then, the Wolves have a heavyweight fight waiting for them until that bell rings in Memphis on Tuesday night.