Maybe this time the Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns won’t be awake until 6:30 a.m. after a game or get into a social-media war with an opponent.
After Tuesday’s loss to Philadelphia left him restless all night, Towns delivered the kind of performance in Thursday’s 119-96 victory over Sacramento at Target Center that only Kevin Garnett has reached in franchise history.
Towns’ 30-point, 14-rebound, five-assist, five-block night guided to the season’s second-largest margin of victory. He did so on a night when the Wolves outscored the perpetually rebuilding Kings 31-16 in the third quarter and led by as many as 27 points late in that quarter.
“I didn’t come to play basketball tonight,” Towns said. “I came to be an assassin.”
Towns’ 30-10-5-5 night was only the 10th such game in the NBA in the past decade, and it makes him and Garnett the only two Wolves to ever reach it. Garnett reached that stat line three times as a Timberwolf.
Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau started pulling his starters from the game with 5 ½ minutes left and finished the game with little-used Cole Aldrich and Aaron Brooks, among others, on the floor.
This time, no starter played more than Jimmy Butler’s 35 ½ minutes and no fewer than Taj Gibson’s 24 after Towns played 48 minutes and Butler more than 45 in Tuesday’s overtime game. Thibodeau adjusted his rotation Thursday beyond a three-man bench by calling upon second-year swingman Marcus Georges-Hunt, who played 17 minutes and defended Kings shooter Buddy Hield.
Butler came toward the bench at that 5 ½-minute mark, believing Thibodeau was removing him from the game. He should have known better: Thibodeau called for Jeff Teague.
“Jeff is the one who ran over there faster,” said Butler, who remained on the floor nearly another 3 minutes. “I thought I was coming out. Somebody waved at me and I took off and he said, ‘Not yet.’ ”
Towns said he was up all night Tuesday, upset after the Wolves lost a nine-point lead with 6 minutes left and lost to the 76ers game in overtime. His father, Karl Sr., verified a 1:30 a.m. call from his son. Towns took responsibility for the loss, particularly for not keeping Sixers star Joel Embiid from muscling his way to two free throws that sent the game to overtime.
After Tuesday’s game, Towns and Embiid competed in an Instagram exchange in which Towns appeared to lose for a second time. Embiid posted a photo of him driving by Towns for a layup and commented, “Euro-stepping our way through Minnesota and we ended up raising the cat last night,” a reference to Towns’ K.A.T. nickname.
Towns responded by criticizing Embiid’s caption and the quality of the photo, to which Embiid replied, “Better quality than your defense.”
Asked if he was motivated by that, Towns said, “No, no, me and Joel are really good friends. It was kind of like a brotherly badger. It was fun to see. I didn’t realize, I forgot he’s like the King of Instagram and Twitter. I didn’t think his caption was very good. At least respect me and give me a better caption than that.”
Either way, Towns followed Tuesday’s loss by turning playmaker and shot-blocker as well as scorer Thursday. Butler (nine), Teague (six) and Towns (five) combined for 20 assists.
“He made the right plays,” Thibodeau said. “Maybe the best play of the game was the one when he posted up, their help came, he kicked it out and we got the three. …So when we play like that and we share the ball, we’re going to score.”