MIAMI – At some point you’ll hear every member of the Timberwolves, from coach Tom Thibodeau on down, preach that importance of “taking what the game gives you” and making the right decisions off that.
If you could distill the physical manifestation of that cliché, it might look like the game Karl-Anthony Towns played Sunday in a 113-104 Wolves victory over the Heat.
“Monster game in every aspect,” Thibodeau said of Towns.
Towns had a stat line only one other player in NBA history has achieved: 34 points on 12-for-24 shooting, 18 rebounds, seven assists and six blocked shots. That other player? Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who did the same in 1975.
“That’s the ‘Kat’ we need, making plays on both ends of the floor,” said guard Tyus Jones, who started for ailing Jeff Teague (left ankle) and Derrick Rose (right ankle).
Added Robert Covington: “When you got it going like that, you’ve got to sit up here and feed the dog.”
It didn’t much matter how the Heat tried to defend Towns, he was going to succeed any way he could. Double team? He found open teammates for those seven assists. Guard him one-on-one? He dominated in the post while also deploying his effective touch from three-point range (3-for-6).
“Throughout a game you’re gathering data and seeing how things are working,” Towns said. “I just saw how little things were working throughout the game ... I’m glad my teammates trusted me with making the play calls and giving me the ball when I wanted.”
To top it off, he was a force on the defensive end, a result of Towns being in the right place more often than not, Thibodeau said.
“He’s reading plays a lot better now,” Thibodeau said. “His body positioning is much better. He’s not overcommitting.”
The Wolves led 86-77 entering the fourth quarter and Towns took his usual seat on the bench at the beginning of the quarter. The Heat cut the lead to 90-85 and Thibodeau called timeout to put Towns back in. The Heat, led by Dwyane Wade’s 21 points, cut the lead to two before Towns put his large foot down.
“I damn sure didn’t want to lose again,” Towns said. “You’ve heard enough about our road struggles. I wanted to be extremely aggressive in the fourth.”
A driving hook and three-point play later, the Wolves were up seven. Then later in the quarter, he hit a three and a pair of free throws following a block on the defensive end to put the Wolves up comfortably, 105-92 with 3:39 left.
“He was just calm out there making the right play and making great reads,” Jones said. “That’s what we need. It definitely makes your job easier when you can just throw to the post and let a guy make the right play.”
It helped the Wolves stop the bleeding temporarily after Friday’s debacle in a frustrating loss to Atlanta.
But the win that probably excited Towns the most was his beloved Philadelphia Eagles making the playoffs over the Vikings. Towns shouted for all to hear in the locker room when he heard the news and spent a few moments extolling the virtues of quarterback Nick Foles.
“Fly, birds, fly,” he said.
Perhaps after the night he had Sunday, Minnesota fans will allow him that moment to gloat.