It was important that Karl-Anthony Towns bounce back from a terrible Game 3 in the Timberwolves’ first-round playoff series against Memphis to provide the best postseason effort of his career in a 119-118 victory on Saturday at Target Center. It’s more important that Towns repeats that success in Game 5 and beyond.
Towns wasn’t the only reason the Wolves lost after establishing leads of 26 and 25 points in Game 3, but Minnesota’s best player had to shoulder much of the responsibility for that unsightly defeat. Towns is a super-max player and sees himself as the leader of a franchise making only its second playoff appearance since 2004.
If Towns is going to shoulder that responsibility, then childish meltdowns and disappearing acts in the games that matter the most can’t be an issue. That’s exactly what happened in the Wolves’ win over the Clippers in the play-in game and in Games 2 and 3 against Memphis. Towns had 11 points, shooting 3-for-11 from the field, and five rebounds before fouling out against the Clippers. Towns’ tantrums that evening were a clear distraction.
After bouncing back with 29 points, 13 rebounds and only three fouls in a Game 1 win at Memphis, Towns was held to 15 points (4-of-7 from the field with only one three-point attempt) with five fouls in a Game 2 loss and then had eight points (3-of-4 from the field with one three-point attempt) in the disastrous Game 3.
Towns had put together a solid game entering the fourth quarter on Saturday, scoring 20 points with 12 rebounds and three fouls, but it was in the final 12 minutes in which Towns stepped up in a way the Wolves need and expect. He made 4-of-5 shots, including two huge three-pointers, for 13 points and did not commit a foul. Towns showed plenty of emotion but there was none of the petulance the Wolves too often see when things don’t go how he envisioned. That’s a big reason why the series is tied at 2-2 headed back to Memphis for Tuesday’s game.
If Towns can put on a repeat performance for the remainder of this series, there’s a good chance the Wolves will be headed to the second round. There’s also a good chance that Wolves fans, and the national media, can begin to forget what we saw, or didn’t see, from Towns in the Great Meltdown of Game 3.
- The Wolves need far more from D’Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley than what they got on Saturday. Russell had only 10 points on 3-of-12 shooting (2-of-6 on threes) and seven assists in 35 minutes. Beasley did not take a shot in only 12 minutes after making 4-of-12 shots for 11 points in 25 minutes in Game 3. The Wolves were largely saved in Game 4 by the fact that guard Jordan McLaughlin, who did not play in Game 3, made 5-of-6 shots, including 4-of-4 from three-point range, to score 16 points in 14 minutes.
- Timberwolves fans proved in Games 3 and 4 that when they are given an exciting product they will show up and create a home-court advantage. Target Center wasn’t just packed — the tarps that covered certain upper-deck sections in the regular season were gone — but it also had a “can’t-hear-myself think” noise level on several occasions. Kudos to a fan base that has had so little to cheer about until now.
- Hopefully, the Wolves’ success also will draw some attention to Alan Horton, the team’s standout radio play-by-play voice who has long worked alone. Horton does a great job painting a picture for the audience, and, almost as importantly, he isn’t afraid to criticize the home team when it’s necessary.
- Vikings fans already upset that new general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has made moves that would have been expected from former GM Rick Spielman, really won’t like it if Minnesota’s new GM decides to trade back in the first round on Thursday. That would be a very Spielman-like thing to do and yet it’s a real possibility that that’s exactly what Adofo-Mensah will do. Rumors are circulating that the Chiefs could be trying to get the 12th pick from the Vikings. Kansas City has back-to-back picks (Nos. 29-30) near the end of the first round.
- The most important thing for Adofo-Mensah will be to begin to position himself to be able to move up in the first round in 2023 to grab a quarterback that can serve as Kirk Cousins’ replacement. Cousins will be entering the final season of his contract in 2023, so that would be a perfect time to draft a QB to serve as a one-year backup before taking over.
- Don’t forget Purple Daily fans that Phil Mackey, Declan Goff and yours truly will host an NFL draft party on Thursday at Surly Brewing (520 Malcolm Ave SE, Minneapolis) from which we will do our podcast during the first round. Doors will be open at 3 p.m. and the event will start at 6 p.m. and go until the first round is complete. You can win a 65-inch, TCL 4k Dolby Vision Google TV and Surly will have a pale ale available for that night only called “Before I Die,” in honor of the fact we regularly talk about just wanting one Super Bowl championship before we die. There will be no admission charge.
- Righthander Dylan Bundy, a free agent addition by the Twins this offseason, improved to 3-0 with an 0.59 ERA on Saturday in a 9-2 victory over the Chicago White Sox. That made Bundy the eighth pitcher since the current mound distance was set in 1893 to have one-or-fewer runs allowed and one-or-fewer walks allowed in his first three appearances (all starts) of the season, according to Elias.
- A couple of updates on former Twins who were traded in spring training. Catcher Mitch Garver is hitting .163/.288/.233 with one home run and four RBIs in 13 games with the Texas Rangers. Josh Donaldson, who was traded to the Yankees, is slashing .196/.317/.373 with two homers and four RBIs in 15 games. Slow starts, of course, are normal all over baseball this spring so Garver and Donaldson’s lack of production at the plate aren’t shocking.
- A perfect example of this. Shortstop Carlos Correa, the Twins’ $35 million man, entered Sunday hitting .192/.288/.288 with one home runs and three RBIs in 14 games. Correa was not in the starting lineup for the Twins’ game against the White Sox.