MINNEAPOLIS – Twenty-six quick thoughts for the 26 minutes played by Karl-Anthony Towns in Minnesota’s 99-97 overtime win over Memphis at Target Center on Wednesday night.
1. The only way to describe Wednesday’s game between the Wolves and the Grizzlies was ugly. There’s nothing else that fits correctly. It wasn’t a sight many wanted to see, and certainly won’t be replayed on NBA TV as the game of the week any time soon.
2. The Wolves are beat up, thinned out, and functioning with little depth or consistency, while Memphis is reportedly transitioning from the era of ‘Grit ‘n Grind’ to the draft lottery. It was a perfect storm for bad basketball.
3. The ending, of course, couldn’t have been more fitting.
4. After Andrew Wiggins missed a 23-foot jumper with 3.3 seconds remaining in overtime – his 15th missed shot of the night – the rebound caromed to Karl-Anthony Towns. He gathered it, narrowly avoiding stepping out of bounds, took a dribble to create space between he and Marc Gasol, and let the ball go with 0.2 seconds remaining.
5. Of course, it went in. On a night where very little went Towns’ way, the biggest moment of the night did.
6. “I hadn’t had that feeling all night,” Towns said. “The way it left my fingers it felt like a green release in 2K so I felt pretty confident it was going in.
7. “I just started laughing. I was telling everyone in here, the basketball gods weren’t treating me well the whole game. I was in foul trouble, I wasn’t making shots. I was getting open looks and it’s funny, you’re hitting the back of the backboard.”
8. Throughout the evening Towns struggled with foul trouble, posting arguably the worst half of his career prior to halftime. In the first two quarters he finished with no points, no rebounds, no assists, no steals, no blocks and three personal fouls in only six minutes on the court.
9. The second half went better to start. He collected two and-one opportunities, including a posterization of Gasol, and looked to be getting in rhythm. Then came his fourth foul and a walk back to the bench.
10. Despite only played 26 of a possible 53 minutes, Towns finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds, and the last of each category saved the Wolves from an embarrassingly bad loss.
11. The journey leading up to Towns’ first career buzzer-beater wasn’t one the Wolves are proud of. It was barely enough to beat a Memphis team that has made its stars available via trade and is ready to begin the rebuilding process. During the second quarter the Wolves were able to build a 17-point advantage. By halftime the game was tied at 44.
12. The reason for this, oddly enough, can’t be attributed to the lack of depth for the Wolves. The bench players had success for the most part. Isaiah Canaan didn’t impress in his first night with the Wolves, but it was his first day as a member of the franchise. Expecting much more from him would have been silly.
13. Jerryd Bayless, however, continues to prove that he belongs.
14. “You give him all the credit you can give somebody,” interim coach Ryan Saunders said of Bayless. “He was great at stepping up when other guys might have had nights where they might have been off or just weren’t able to be on the court as much.”
15. Bayless had his best game of the season on Wednesday, finishing with a team-high 19 points, 12 assists, and seven rebounds. The most impressive number in his stat line may have been the zero turnovers in 43 minutes.
16. “The minutes and whatnot, it’s great,” Bayless said of this opportunity. “Honestly, it’s been 11 years for me to get this opportunity. I’m trying to take advantage of it as much as I can because I know how rare and how hard it is for these to come about.”
17. Bayless was an afterthought in the Jimmy Butler trade that was needed in order to make the trade work financially. He wasn’t expected to play much, and with Tyus Jones, Derrick Rose, and Jeff Teague on the roster, it looked like playing time for him would be scarce. He’s been an active DNP numerous times this season, but has waited for his opportunity that’s finally come. He only played 42 games between 2016 and his arrival in Minnesota, but he’s been making them count now.
18. “S***, I was on the edge [of being out of the league] this year,” said Bayless on if he questioned if this opportunity would come. “It’s hard, man. Realistically, this league, everybody is good. A lot of times it’s just being prepared and an opportunity to come. Like who would’ve known that three guys would go down and a situation like this would’ve came.”
19. Bayless went from not playing in five of Minnesota’s first six games in the month of January to taking a potential game-winning shot at the end of the month. That’s dually because of the injuries and his performance.
20. With that said, his shot at the end of regulation wasn’t a great look. He waved off Towns at the top of the key and opted for an isolation instead before having his attempt bounce off the rim.
21. “It’s one of those things that I probably wouldn’t have called timeout again, because I like when you’ve got guys on their heels. If it goes in, it’s a great call,” Saunders said. “But, hey, it didn’t go in. Could we have maybe gotten a better shot? Possibly.”
22. Saunders makes a valid point about not wanting to call the timeout and allow Memphis to set up defensively. The Grizzlies are a tough team to score on in the half court, and letting the game play out – especially while tied and not playing from behind – is the right play. The Wolves certainly could have gotten a better shot, though.
23. In a perfect world, Wiggins would have been the one to take that shot – as he did in overtime – in the reality that is this world, Towns should be the one with the ball in his hands to decide the game which – thanks to the basketball gods – did happen.
24. Wiggins’ shot at the end of overtime wasn’t necessarily a bad look, but it was a fitting way to end the game. He had a rough shooting performance as he finished 4-of-19 from the floor for 12 points. Those types of things happen.
25. What was noticeable was that despite the lack of scoring production, Wiggins did seem to be more engaged defensively and in the battle for rebounding. It’s a small thing, but his three offensive rebounds certainly helped. He wasn’t floating through this game, like he has in the past. He just shot poorly, and there is a difference.
26. The Wolves are back in action on Saturday night against the Denver Nuggets at Target Center. Talk to you then.