Karl-Anthony Towns just missed his shot at 60 points, when a three-pointer clanked off the rim with under two minutes to play in Minnesota’s 149-139 victory over San Antonio.
The Wolves were coming down the floor, and who knew how many possessions they were going to have left. Towns was sitting on 57 points. He had broken his own franchise record for points in a game just moments earlier with a free throw. There was one more goal left to hit.
Guard Jaylen Nowell handed Towns the ball with a command.
“I said, ‘Do not pass this ball,’ ” Nowell said. “No matter what you do.”
Towns listened. He let another three fly from nearly the exact same spot beyond the top of the key.
“I thought ‘God is not going to let me miss two in a row.’ So I stepped back further,” Towns said. “As soon as I got past half court, I was setting up shop to shoot a three from anywhere.”
This one, like six others he had connected on during the night, was true. He now had 60. The bench erupted and mobbed him on the court as he exited with the nice round number, a number nobody in the NBA has hit this season.
The customary water showers followed the game, with Anthony Edwards dumping about a half gallon on Towns’ head during his postgame interview with Bally Sports North. The crew at AT&T Center worked feverishly as Towns was speaking to dry the floor.
Towns couldn’t help but laugh as he let his teammates bathe him in water and adoration for a night that may never happen again.
“None of this happens without my teammates really saying we want you to have a chance at history,” Towns said.
He was 19-for-31 from the field, 7-for-11 from three-point range, 15-for-16 from the free-throw line and had 17 rebounds for good measure.
If the 60 points were Towns’ Sistine Chapel, the third quarter was his “The Creation of Adam,” the masterpiece within the masterwork. Towns scored 32 in the third on 9-for-13 shooting and finished the quarter at 56, tying the record he set on March 28, 2018.
The Wolves also set a team record for points in a game, breaking their old mark of 144 that was set against New Orleans in the final game of the 2015-16 season.
“I knew I was on a crazy pace of scoring and in my mind I was so locked in to just dominating,” Towns said. “I didn’t really think of anything else, but every time I touched the ball — go score the ball. I was just in a different mindset.”
The Wolves saw what Towns was doing, and they got him the ball every time down the floor.
“I only got to see these moments on TV growing up,” Nowell said. “It was amazing I was able to see that and it was my teammate.”
The stars need to align for nights like this to happen in the NBA, and here were the circumstances for the Wolves. First, San Antonio didn’t have a matchup that could limit Towns, no matter what he decided to do.
“They just didn’t have an answer for him,” coach Chris Finch said.
Towns knew it right from the start, when he had 14 in the first quarter.
BOXSCORE: Timberwolves 149, San Antonio 139
“I feel like anytime I touch the ball, I’m unstoppable,” Towns said. “I don’t think anyone in this league can guard me one-on-one. This is just a night where I shot a lot more and I made a lot more, too.”
Second, the Wolves were without two of their main frontcourt players in Naz Reid (back spasms) and Jarred Vanderbilt (left thigh contusion).
The Wolves were going to need as much as Towns could give. He gave them everything: step backs, drives to the rim, and even a technical foul and flagrant foul. Monday was all sides of Towns in all their glory, warts and all. One of those warts, foul trouble, might have prevented an even bigger night.
He picked up fouls on two consecutive possessions about a minute after checking back into the game in the fourth quarter. That gave him five with 6 minutes, 34 seconds remaining and the Wolves ahead 131-114. The Wolves maintained a double-digit lead while Towns was out — would he even get back in the game to set the record and hit 60? San Antonio started to substitute the end of the bench.
“He would’ve been mad at me as a coach,” said guard D’Angelo Russell, who had 19 points. “I wouldn’t have put him back in.”
Towns said he looked at coach Chris Finch and asked what he wanted to do. Finch’s response?
“Go get 60,” Towns said Finch told him.
First, he had to get above 56 and to do that, he stepped to the free-throw line with 2:19 to play. He had just been hit in the face.
“My left eye was just water,” Towns said.
With Edwards leading a small chorus of Wolves fans in “MVP” chants, Towns missed the first shot. But he refocused literally and figuratively before No. 2 and drained it for the franchise record. Shortly thereafter came 60. The Wolves weren’t going to let him stop short.
“You look up and see 60 and the whole team happy,” Russell said. “Everybody being selfless about it. I think that was more of what I appreciated. The performance was amazing, but everybody wanted to see it, too.”
The Wolves might not have needed those last few points, but they wouldn’t have been in that position without Towns doing what he did earlier in the game and creating distance on the scoreboard on a night the Spurs shot 54%.
Earlier in the evening, Denver’s Nikola Jokic and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid squared off in a nationally televised game that pitted premier big man vs. premier big man and captured the attention of NBA fans on social media. Towns delivered a message loud and clear — don’t forget about me.
“I just felt really good with the ball in my hand,” Towns said.
Towns and his teammates posed for a picture in the locker room afterward with Towns holding a piece of paper with “60” written on it, referencing Wilt Chamberlain’s iconic “100” picture.
When Towns entered his postgame media session, he placed the paper in front of the microphone and sat back in the chair.
“I wish I could give y’all more energy,” he said, “but I’m tired as hell.”
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