Friday night, after a disappointing end to interim coach Ryan Saunders’ first home game, Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns said the team needed an edge, he needed an edge, and that we’d all see that in the next game.
This is what we call putting your money where your mouth is: In a thrilling back-and-forth game against New Orleans on Saturday night at Target Center, down the stretch of a game that featured 18 ties and 15 lead changes, Towns put the finishing touches on an edgy performance. His three-pointer with 2:55 left broke a tie, then he basically ended a game-long battle by blocking Pelicans star Anthony Davis at the other end, leading to a Tyus Jones layup, a five-point Wolves lead and, ultimately, Saunders’ first home win, 110-106.
Towns finished with 27 points and a career-high 27 rebounds, the most by a player in the NBA this season. He made 10 of 23 shots, three of eight three-pointers, had nine of his rebounds on the offensive end and blocked four shots. He is just the fifth NBA player since the 1973-74 season to have a game with at least 27 points, 27 rebounds and four blocks.
That, folks, is an edge.
“We just wanted to get it for him,’’ Towns said of Saunders, who is now 2-1. “He deserved it. We weren’t flawless by any means. But we showed a lot of heart, showed a lot of fight. And a lot of edge to pull this thing out.’’
Towns wasn’t alone in providing an edge. For the second time in three games Jones had to finish out a game. Tuesday in Oklahoma City it was because starting point guard Jeff Teague was tossed from the game with 16 minutes left to play. Saturday it was because Teague aggravated his ankle injury with 17½ minutes left.
Jones finished with 14 points and six assists Saturday. Dario Saric ended a mini-slump, scoring 14 off the bench, all in the second half. Andrew Wiggins had 18 points, Josh Okogie 17.
But leading the way was Towns. The score was tied at 103 coming out of a timeout with 3:08 left when Jones fed Towns for a three-pointer from right of the top of the key. At the other end Towns stymied Davis. The Pelicans star scored 30 points Saturday, with 14 rebounds. But he didn’t score this time, getting blocked from 6 feet out. The ball got to Jones, who drove and scored.
“That was huge, huge,’’ Saunders said of the block. “We’ve been talking to him about going vertical without coming down and fouling. For him to do it at a time like that was big for our team.’’
This time it was the Wolves executing down the stretch. After allowing New Orleans to hit on 16 of 24 shots in the third quarter, the Wolves limited the Pelicans to 17 points on 7-for-22 shooting in the fourth.
Jrue Holiday scored 25 points and Julius Randle had 22. But the Pelicans scored just three points over the final 3:59 of the game.
As a result the Wolves have won four of their past five games heading into a showdown Tuesday in Philadelphia with former Wolves player Jimmy Butler.
Thanks to an edgy performance by Towns. “He was a beast on both ends of the floor,’’ Jones said. “On the glass, timely shots. That’s what we know he’s capable of.’’
Said Saunders: “Twenty-seven rebounds means you’re playing to win, and you’re playing meaningful possessions where you understand this is a win we needed against a team that we’re going to be fighting for playoff positioning.’’