sports 4 days ago

Karl-Anthony Towns leads Timberwolves past Knicks for fourth straight win

Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn. — Jace Frederick Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.

Jan. 13--Karl-Anthony Towns drove into the lane in the final seconds and kicked the ball out to Jeff Teague, who had an open 3-point shot that would've clinched it, but it clanked off the iron as the Timberwolves fell just short -- of getting Towns his triple-double.

The Wolves center finished with 23 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists while leading Minnesota to a 118-108 win over New York (19-23) on Friday night at Target Center, good for Minnesota's fourth straight victory and seventh straight home win.

After Teague missed, he and Towns laughed as they walked off the court. Maybe Teague can repay Towns with dinner sometime.

"Jeff doesn't owe me nothing," Towns said. "He got me exactly what I want, seven in a row, so we're good. I'll joke with him all year about it, but it's more important that we got seven in a row."

It's important for the Wolves (28-16) that Towns continues to progress. The big man continues to improve defensively and played an excellent floor game Friday, doing a bit of everything while thoroughly outplaying Knicks talented big man Kristaps Porzingis, who finished with 17 points and nine rebounds.

"I felt his game was awesome," said Taj Gibson, who said he would've shot the ball late had he known Towns was close to a triple-double. "I feel like his ceiling, the sky is the limit. He can do this almost every single night. ... I'm extremely proud of the way he's been playing."

Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said what's especially encouraging is the way Towns is seeing the game. Some of his assists came in impressive fashion, including one late in the first half in which he flipped a pass over his shoulder to hit a cutting Jimmy Butler for a layup.

"He made some great passes, some passes I hadn't seen KAT make before," Teague said. "He was playing really unselfish and great defensively."

Towns' performance was needed on a night on which Andrew Wiggins didn't shoot well, going 7 for 20 from the floor, and Butler wasn't his normal aggressive self, finishing with just 13 points. Generally speaking, nights like that are going to end in Wolves losses.

But not now. Not the way Minnesota is rolling, finding new ways to win. Friday, the recipe involved Towns and a quality showing from the reserves. Gorgui Dieng, Jamal Crawford and Nemanja Bjelica all finished with 10 points, while Tyus Jones had seven points to go with four assists.

Those four plus Towns started the fourth quarter together, staked to a one-point lead. Six minutes later, they had grown the lead to 14, essentially putting the game away. Not bad for a unit that's looked like a liability at other times this season.

"The bench came through when we needed it most," Thibodeau said.

The Wolves are playing like one of the best teams in the NBA, particularly on their home floor. Target Center was sold out for the seventh straight time, marking the longest such Wolves streak since 1991. All of those sellout crowds have seen Wolves wins.

Earlier in the season, the Wolves were winning games, but often in uncomfortable fashion. This team is starting to feel itself.

"I think we're starting to enjoy it," Teague said. "I think we're playing together and we're having fun. We're starting to get the joy out of getting assists and seeing other people score or somebody getting a block and diving onto the floor for a loose ball. I think that gets us excited more than a dunk now.

"Seeing those kinds of plays, man, that really helps our team and picks up our energy, and we're starting to become a better team because of it."

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