After he hit the improbable winning shot, Karl-Anthony Towns couldn’t help but laugh. Same for his teammates, including Taj Gibson, who was embracing Towns as both giggled their way off the floor like two schoolkids who had just pulled off quite the prank.
In a way, that’s what Towns did as he put a merciful end to a discombobulated, plodding 99-97 Timberwolves victory against a Memphis team that accomplished its mission of turning the game into a river dredging that featured bad offense and worse execution.
When Towns grabbed an offensive rebound off an Andrew Wiggins miss at the end of overtime — and somehow made the shot from the right corner as the buzzer sounded — he did the announced 13,615 fans in the stands and players on the court at Target Center a favor by ending this grisly (or Grizzlies) affair.
“You have no idea how bad I wanted that shot to go in,” Luol Deng told Towns in the locker room afterward. “Another overtime of that game?”
Deng shook his head.
“I was just happy we were able to win it,” said point guard Jerryd Bayless, who led the Wolves with 19 points and 12 assists. “Because I didn’t really want to go to a third overtime.”
It only would’ve been the second. But you could forgive Bayless for thinking the game lasted longer than it actually did, especially since he had to endure 43 minutes of it for the point guard-bereft Wolves, who beat a Grizzlies team that has won only twice in its past 18 games.
It also didn’t help the Wolves that Towns had to overcome foul trouble that caused him to go scoreless in the first half before he got 16 in regulation and overtime. As unlikely as his final two points were, Towns said it “felt like a green release in 2K,” referring to getting off a good shot in the NBA video game. It came after a three-pointer he took seconds earlier had rimmed out.
“I just started laughing,” Towns said. “I was telling everyone in here, the basketball gods weren’t treating me well the whole game. I was in foul trouble, wasn’t making shots, getting open looks. You’re hitting the back of the backboard, in and out … and that ball goes in?”
It might not have been the most satisfying victory for the Wolves, but it sparked a lot of joy. The Wolves blew a 17-point lead in the second quarter and needed Towns to tie it with 33.6 seconds remaining in regulation with a dunk.
That came after the Wolves had an awful offensive possession that resulted in Towns heaving a half-court three to beat the shot clock. Bayless had two shots to win it in regulation, but he missed both, leading to the overtime nobody wanted.
Memphis shot only 41 percent, the Wolves a dismal 39 percent. The game also featured the rare jump ball — that came after another jump ball, as Towns was involved in a pair of tie-ups that came 8.2 seconds apart in overtime, leading to his winner.
“Hey, sometimes you just scratch out a win,” interim coach Ryan Saunders said. “No matter how you get it, it’s always better to win.”
The Wolves won’t complain about anything that breaks their way, especially not this season.
“It felt good,” Towns said. “I hadn’t had that feeling all night.”