INDIANAPOLIS – Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns’ six blocked shots during a rollicking victory at Indiana on New Year’s Eve tied a career high reached twice before, but not since the first three months of his rookie season.
His league-leading 29th double-double this season — 18 points, 14 rebounds — is old news. His activity defending the rim is something of a revelation on the nights it comes, like on Sunday.
“He was phenomenal,” veteran teammate Taj Gibson said. “We need him to be like that every night. He’s just getting accustomed to things.
“I think he has grown a lot more, especially on the defensive end. He has taken the challenge. It showed tonight, but we’re going to need a lot more nights like that from him.”
Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau praised Towns’ rim protection, his third-quarter scoring when the Pacers pulled within 10 points, and the way he read the ball’s movement and positioned his hands for deflections as well as blocks.
“I’ve had a lot of games when I thought I was pretty active,” Towns said.
“I was just trying to be aggressive around the rim. I had to match up against Myles (Turner, the Pacers center). He’s an amazing player, so I had to bring my ‘A’ game.”
Bazz comes back
Sunday’s 28-point, fourth-quarter lead created playing time near game’s end for Wolves forward Shabazz Muhammad, who has played poorly this season and fallen out of Thibodeau’s rotation.
He didn’t play in 13 consecutive games until finishing Sunday’s final 3:47.
“He has done a good job handling it,” Thibodeau said. “He has been a good pro. He’s working hard. He has a positive attitude. Just keep working and you never know. These things can change suddenly.
“You can’t play everyone every night. You have to settle on a rotation and the team has played very well. That part is important.
“You don’t want to change performance. Performance has to mean something.”
Ridding the rust
Wolves reserve forward Nemanja Bjelica played extended minutes in his fourth game back from a midfoot sprain that sidelined him for 15 games from Nov. 22 until the Christmas night game in Los Angeles.
His 17½ minutes were more than he’s played in any of his first three games.
“It helps,” he said. “I was a little bit, if I can say, rusty. But it takes time. I just have to catch up my rhythm.
“It’s normal. … I’m here, ready to play and get back in. I need a couple more games.”
• Wolves veteran point guard Jeff Teague suited up and was active for the game, but did not play in the Wolves’ only game in his hometown of Indianapolis this season.
He missed his second game after sustaining a Grade 1 sprain of the MCL in his left knee Wednesday.
• Forward Andrew Wiggins is 14-for-24 on three-point shots in his past five games after going 2-for-4 Sunday. That’s 58.3 percent after he shot 17 percent the nine games before that.
But Thibodeau praised his defense, saying “we haven’t seen those types of plays from him before.”
• The Wolves were in Indianapolis on Saturday when men’s college basketball’s No. 1 ranked Villanova played Butler there. Wolves assistant coach Ed Pinckney played on Villanova’s 1985 surprise NCAA title team and assistant Rick Brunson’s son Jalen stars for the Wildcats.
Both attended the game, which Butler won.
• After a slow start this season, the Timberwolves’ Iowa G League team has won five consecutive games and gone 8-2 in its past 10.
Rookie center Justin Patton has played measured minutes in the past eight of those games. “It’s good,” Thibodeau said.