NEW YORK – No matter how much some of his team’s fans longed for it, Timberwolves interim head coach Sam Mitchell had resisted playing centers Karl-Anthony Towns and Gorgui Dieng together for much of this season, wary one might experience fatigue, foul trouble or maybe even injury.
But times, they change.
And they particularly do after his two big men combined for 44 points and 20 rebounds in Sunday’s 100-85 victory at Brooklyn and shot 61 percent from the field.
“My centers are together, they’re playing great,” Mitchell said. “They kind of force me to play them together because they’re playing so well. I need them both together on the floor.”
Dieng’s 20-point, 10-rebound double-double helped push the Wolves to an 11-point lead in the first half. Towns’ 24-point, 10-rebound game allowed a team prone to blowing big leads to build a 20-point lead and hold much of it.
Towns opened his postgame conversation with reporters by saying, “Gorgui Dieng for MVP, next question. … Gorgui looked like Hakeem Olajuwon out there. Keep feeding him the ball, feed the monster. When he’s having a game like this, I try to get him an open shot. He deserves it the way he’s been playing.”
Homecoming, Part II
Towns on Sunday played his second game in four days in the New York City area, where he was born and raised. The Brooklyn trip allowed time to have Saturday dinner with his parents and revisit the arena where he was drafted No. 1 overall last summer.
“This is amazing,” he said. “I love being home, I love the vibe. Even in the first half when I was struggling to make shots, I was smiling because I’m just seeing faces I saw when I was in grade school, in middle school. People had faith in me, but didn’t think I could ever make it to this level, and I’m looking at them and they’re paying for tickets to watch me play. I felt I was at the park today …
“Being here brings back so many memories. Madison Square Garden may have had my heart as a child, but Barclays is where my life really started.”
• Wolves star Andrew Wiggins after veteran Tayshaun Prince primarily held Nets star Joe Johnson to a six-point, 2-for-10 shooting day: “That’s what Tayshaun does. He has been matching up with Joe Johnson for a long time, so he knows his game better than anyone on the team.”
• Kevin Garnett on Sunday played his first game against a Brooklyn team that traded him back to the Wolves for Thad Young at last February’s trade deadline. “The move was great for KG, the move was great for us,” Nets coach Lionel Hollins said. “We got a younger, quicker player and we changed how we played, and KG got to go back to Minnesota.”
• Wiggins after Sunday’s victory: “We’re still a long way from how good we can be, but every game we’re getting better.”