DENVER – Karl-Anthony Towns was in sweatpants while everyone else was in their shorts at the end of the Timberwolves’ shootaround on Friday at the University of Denver.
It was an indication that Towns wasn’t quite yet ready to make his return to the floor after missing Wednesday’s game and Thursday’s practice because of a left knee injury.
Indeed, Towns missed his second consecutive game with the Wolves playing the first of a back-to-back set of games which continues Saturday in Portland.
Coach Ryan Saunders did indicate some uptick in activity for Towns, who was able to participate in the shootaround a “little bit,” Saunders said.
Towns has made it a point of pride to not miss games and play through nagging injuries. In his first three seasons, Towns played in all 82 games. He missed five games last season and Friday marks his fourth this season (though two were for a suspension for his fight with 76ers center Joel Embiid).
Towns has also said he probably played through injuries he shouldn’t have. Saunders said the Wolves are being careful about managing Towns’ health, as they are with all players, even though the team was mired in an eight-game losing streak.
“As a competitor, you want to play every game and there’s something wrong with you when you don’t want to play or don’t want more minutes,” Saunders said. “That’s what I always tell players. But you also need to listen to your body. You need to do what’s best for yourself and the group too in the long term. Karl, he’s always been durable and played.”
Jarrett Culver (flu-like symptoms) wasn’t able to practice Thursday but he did participate in shootaround and did return to the lineup Friday.
Preventing the three
The Nuggets entered as the best team in the NBA defending the three-point shot. Their percentage in that category ranked .307, nearly 2 percentage points better than the second-best team, the Heat.
Of course the Wolves helped the Nuggets pad that stat in their initial meeting when they shot just six of 45 (13%) from deep.
But Saunders said Denver’s coverage of that shot is among the best in the league.
“There’s skill to that,” Saunders said. “Denver has a number of veteran wings that are very good in terms of covering ground and understanding that to guard the three you’ve got to be in to be out. They focus a lot on guarding the ball screens 2-on-2. They have [Nikola] Jokic back, and he’s good with his hands in there too. It allows other guys to stay home.”
Elevating their game
Normally when the Wolves practice the day before embarking on a road trip, they practice in Minnesota, then fly to wherever they are playing.
In Thursday’s case, the Wolves flew first to Denver then practiced after getting off the plane. Part of that was to adjust to the elevation in addition to getting some work in.
Just what length did some players go to in order to combat the elevation? Forward Robert Covington said he had 10 bottles of water in his hotel room that he was going to drink.
“I drank like six of them,” he said. “I’ll have some more come up to the room once we get back just because we got to stay hydrated. … You feel like you got to stay hydrated, put a little extra in your body, just to be able to produce more because it will take a toll on you.”