It had been just two weeks, but didn't it seem longer?
Two weeks and six one-sided losses ago, Karl-Anthony Towns hurt his left wrist. Since then? Six straight losses by an average of 17 points, with the Wolves down by at least 30 points in four of those.
Saturday at Target Center against the San Antonio Spurs, Towns returned. So did competitive Wolves basketball, exciting Wolves basketball. Ultimately, overtime basketball.
But a compelling game ended in a familiar way, with a 125-122 loss to a Spurs team that has won three straight.
"I didn't really think about myself," said Towns, who winced a few times during the course of the game in his return. "Obviously it wasn't the best decision for my personal health at all. But it was the best decision I could make for my team."
In a compelling game in which neither team ever led by more than eight points, the Wolves made a 10-0 run to end the third quarter and led by two entering the fourth. The final 12 minutes was tense, exciting. The Wolves had a chance to win in regulation, but D'Angelo Russell's 20-footer wouldn't fall. The Spurs' Dejounte Murray hit a three-pointer to open overtime, and the Spurs (5-4) never trailed again.
But this was a different Wolves team.
With Towns back, space appeared on the floor. The ball moved. Six Wolves players scored in double figures. Malik Beasley had 29 points, Naz Reid and Russell 16 each.
And then: Towns.
He scored 25 points, had 13 rebounds, four assists and three blocks in a whopping 37 minutes. That was far more than coach Ryan Saunders had expected, and it could affect Towns' availability for Sunday's rematch with the Spurs.
It was an amazing return, in two weeks, from an injury some said would take two months. After the game Towns talked about rehabbing the wrist from the time he woke up in the morning until going to bed. He talked with friends and family, many of whom cautioned him not to move too fast. But ultimately, about a half-hour before Saturday's tip, Towns pulled on his uniform, decided to play.
"I'll do whatever I can do for this team," he said. "I don't want us to fail, get too far behind the eight ball. I have to do what I can do."
The Spurs had other ideas. DeMar DeRozan had 38 points. Murray had 22, Patty Mills 21.
But the Wolves, so out of it the past two weeks, were competitive. And the big reason was Towns, whose left hand, encased in a brace, limited him.
"I'm happy to be in relatively good condition to have that kind of game and find some production for my team," Towns said. "Being able to play today was the biggest win. … I thought we played with pride, with a lot of intensity and urgency. I was telling people in the locker room that today was a game someone had to lose."
Said Saunders: "It's a shame we didn't come out on top."
Having Towns back gives the team hope for the near future.
"Huge," Ricky Rubio said of the effect. "He's the anchor for the offense and defense. And when he's not here we felt his absence. Good to have him back."
But as always, Rubio was a realist.
"We've lost seven in a row," he said. "Yeah, we can be happy with things that happened. But we're on a losing streak, and if we don't win it's hard to see the bright side. But it's a process, of course. We played better than the other games we've had. But still, losing stinks."