SAN FRANCISCO – When Karl-Anthony Towns hit two free throws to give the Timberwolves a victory Wednesday night in his first game back from a right calf injury, he said his return was "like a movie."
On Sunday, Towns proved the sequel might have been better than the original.
Towns hit two key three-pointers, including the game-winner with 9.9 seconds remaining, to lift the Wolves to a 99-96 victory over Golden State on a night his shot was otherwise not falling.
Towns was just 3-for-14 before hitting the Wolves' last two field goals of the night, two of their biggest of the season.
"I've been away from the game a long time," Towns said. "I was looking for ways to help this team and was just trying to do that these last two games. Obviously I didn't shoot well, but I knew my mind-set obviously is always going to be those last two minutes of clutch time, I got to go out there and earn my check."
First, he buried a three to make it 94-93 with 1 minute, 49 seconds remaining. Jordan Poole answered with a three of his own to give the Warriors a two-point lead, and the Wolves came up empty on their next possession.
Every good movie needs strong supporting performances. There was Naz Reid with 23 points, which helped the Wolves overcome an otherwise shaky offense most of the night.
Then there was Kyle Anderson.
The player who has done the little things all season long for the Wolves came up with a needed play when he got a steal from Draymond Green. There were three seconds separating the shot and game clock at the time, and Anderson wasn't sure if some of his teammates were trying to foul.
"Let's try to get a steal and maybe we can play to the last possession," Anderson said. "We just were able to get the steal instead of the foul."
He said he sat on Green trying to work the ball to Stephen Curry (20 points) or Klay Thompson (15 points). When Green went to throw to Thompson, Anderson was ready. That steal was one of five Anderson had on the night to go with 12 points, three of which came on a 40-foot shot-clock buzzer beater, 10 rebounds and seven assists. His seventh assist led to the win.
"In many ways, he's our most important player and he has been all season because of everything that he can do," coach Chris Finch said.
Anderson pulled the ball out in transition and hit Towns, who decided to pull up for three, surprising some of his teammates in the process. But this was a shot, a trailing three in transition, Towns had been working on for a while, something he learned by watching former teammate D'Angelo Russell take and make in the past.
"Everyone here wants me to shoot more, so just trying to find ways of adding to my game," Towns said. "First quarter, took the same shot, missed it and … I just knew with the game on the line, I felt very comfortable with it because I work on it.
It hit the bottom of the net with 9.9 seconds to play and sent a hush through the Chase Center as the Wolves led by two.
The Warriors turned it over again, and Jaden McDaniels, who had foul trouble all night, came back into the game and scored his only point by hitting one of two free throws.
The conundrum for the Wolves in reincorporating Towns to their lineup was on display Sunday: could they still win games while Towns played through the residual rust from his lengthy injury? Could they also win despite any team-wide awkwardness that set in with Towns coming back at either end of the floor.
The offense which shot 43%, wasn't great. Anthony Edwards, who returned from a three-game absence because of a sprained ankle, had just 13 points and said he was exhausted afterward.
"Tired. Out of shape. No legs," Edwards said. "But we got the win, man, so I'm cool."
He was tired in part because the Warriors make teams work so much defensively. But the Wolves surprised with their defensive intensity. They held the potentially explosive Warriors to 42% and just 41 points in the second half.
"You're so worried about Steph and Klay when you play these guys," Anderson said. "I couldn't even tell if we played good defense or not."
They did. There was always a question of whether the Wolves could make their defense work with Towns and Gobert on the floor. After the game Finch indicated the Wolves have more players they can put on the ball defensively. Without invoking Russell's name directly, Finch seemed to be intimating that Mike Conley (12 points) has helped improve the defense where Russell was more of a liability. The 35-year-old Conley did his fair share of chasing Golden Stat's guards around and came up with two steals.
It all added up to a huge win for the Wolves as they head to Sacramento for a game Monday night. Instead of fading back of the No. 6 seed, which the Warriors currently occupy, the Wolves are now ½ game behind them.
"We knew where the standings are and we knew we had to beat them at all cost," Towns said. "We played with that kind of desperation."