His minutes carefully managed much of this season, Timberwolves rookie Karl-Anthony Towns played 41 minutes in Saturday’s victory over Chicago. So, too, did new frontcourt starting mate Gorgui Dieng.
Given the team’s current state and schedule, those playing-time increases for both men might continue at least through the forthcoming All-Star break. Dieng played 31 minutes and Towns 29 in a 116-102 loss to New Orleans on Monday night in which the Wolves trailed by 28 points in the fourth quarter.
“We’re going to find out, aren’t we?” interim coach Sam Mitchell when asked if both can keep that pace. “They’ve got seven days to rest.”
Towns and Dieng each played so much Saturday because they combined for 50 points and 30 rebounds and because Kevin Garnett and Nikola Pekovic remain sidelined by injury and Nemanja Bjelica and Adreian Payne remain out of the rotation.
“It’s how he’s playing,” Mitchell said, “and how some other guys are not playing.”
Kentucky’s platoon system limited Towns’ minutes during his one collegiate season. Mitchell often kept him around 30 minutes a game this season, with the 82-game season and Towns’ career in mind as well.
“Definitely different,” Towns said. “I hadn’t played 40 minutes in my whole entire career. It was cool, something new to get used to. Next time it won’t feel like that. It’ll feel like something I’m already accustomed to.”
Dieng’s playing time ranged from 11 minutes into 30s until he moved into the starting lineup beside Towns seven games ago. He averaged 18.2 points on 67.2 percent shooting the first six games.
“I’m good,” Dieng said. “I didn’t play a lot of minutes starting the season. If I have a chance to play now, I’m just going to lock in and play. I don’t think this is going to kill me. I’m just going to keep playing and if I get tired, I tell them I’m tired.”
Reluctant to play his two big men together early this season, Mitchell now won’t coach without them together.
“When they’re playing the way they are, it’s just hard to get them out of the game,” Mitchell said. “I’m not crazy about playing him 40 minutes, but it’s cool for Karl to show that when we have to stretch him out, he can still go. He hasn’t hit the rookie wall yet that all rookies normally hit and he may not hit it.”
Towns seemed unfamiliar about said wall.
“I mean, I don’t know many walls except the one in China,” Towns said. “I haven’t seen it yet.”
When that quote was passed along to Mitchell, the coach replied: “Sounds like my man KAT. I’m OK with that.”
• Garnett (sore knee), Pekovic (sore foot) and Kevin Martin (sore wrist) all again did not play Monday. There’s a nine-day break in the schedule for the All-Star Game after Wednesday’s home game against Toronto.
• Independent shooting coach Mike Penberthy is in town through Wednesday to work with client Ricky Rubio.