CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Mere hours after the NBA honored Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns for his new-age game displayed last week, Dwight Howard, Charlotte’s eight-time All-Star and three-time Defensive Player of the Year, proved there’s still a place these days for an old-school center.
Howard’s dominant 25-point, 20-rebound, four-block performance in a 118-102 victory over the Wolves at Spectrum Center was his 49th career 20/20 game. He’s the NBA’s career leader at that.
On Sunday, the Wolves lost at home to Detroit because of a lopsided fourth quarter when Pistons big man Andre Drummond and little man Reggie Jackson scored at will on pick-and-roll plays.
On Monday, they lost to a Hornets team they beat by 18 points at home two weeks ago after they couldn’t stop either Howard or reserve forward Frank Kaminsky. Whirling on drives and shooting from range, Kaminsky scored 24 points, including nine in Charlotte’s 34-22 fourth quarter, and he made four threes.
Outdone 11-6 in three-pointers made and outrebounded 52-38 Monday, the Wolves lost their second consecutive game after they had started the season 10-5.
Both teams played their third game in four nights, and on Sunday, every Wolves starter but Taj Gibson played from 38 to nearly 42 minutes vs. Detroit.
“The rebounding got us more than anything,” Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said. “You’ve got to be at your best in the fourth and the last two nights, we haven’t been.”
They were gotten by Howard, whom Wolves point guard Jeff Teague called “still an athletic freak” and a shot-altering presence who changed the game.
“I like to play that way, too, when you really get grindy and go inside,” Towns said. “It’s a great game. He’s definitely one of the guys who’s keeping it alive.”
Hornets coach Steve Clifford said Howard was looking a little like the guy he was before back surgery in 2012.
“We played him in the playoffs two years in a row and that’s how he looked,” Wolves guard Jamal Crawford said. “He’d get 20-20 and throw those games up easy.”
When the Hornets used an 11-4 run early in the fourth to take a 12-point lead with six minutes left, the Wolves played the odds, fouling him — a tactic once commonly known as Hack-a-Howard — to get him at the free-throw line.
“He’s making them,” Crawford said, “and in a row, too.”
Howard made 6-for-10 in the fourth quarter and 9-for-14 for the game. After he practiced shooting for 30 minutes postgame, Howard was asked what he was thinking at the line and he earnestly said he thought about a Netflix documentary on the manhunt for the Unabomber each time.
Five Wolves scored in double digits, led by Crawford’s 19 points. Teague, Crawford, Jimmy Butler and Andrew Wiggins all took more shots than Towns, who earlier Monday was named the Western Conference’s Player of the Week.
“I don’t think we can keep a scorecard,” Crawford said. “When you’re playing without an agenda, some nights will be some guys’ night and some nights will be other guys’ nights.”
And for sure, Sunday and Monday weren’t any of the Wolves’ nights.
“We just didn’t do what we need to do, on both ends. It’s part of it, man,” Butler said. “To lose the way we lost, what can you say? These games come quick in this league.”