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Zulgad’s Roundup: Cool KAT: Karl-Anthony Towns’ ability to maintain composure is big step

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Milwaukee Bucks
Oct 27, 2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) spins towards the basket around Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton (22) during the second quarter at Fiserv Forum. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

There was nothing statistically special about Karl-Anthony Towns’ performance in the Timberwolves’ 113-108 victory in Milwaukee on Wednesday night, and yet longtime Wolves television analyst Jim Petersen called it one of the best (he might have said it was the best) performance he has seen from Towns in his six-plus seasons in Minnesota.

That was because Towns, who finished with 25 points, five assists and only three rebounds, kept his cool the entire night, only two nights after allowing the officials to throw him off his game in an ugly loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. Towns was upset because of calls against him (two early fouls), along with calls he didn’t get, and that resulted in him heading to the bench long before coach Chris Finch wanted to take him out.

Petersen used the term “Zen-like” to describe Towns’ no-nonsense approach against the NBA champion Bucks. Towns’ facial expressions usually tell the story of how he’s feeling during a game, but on Wednesday his expression rarely changed. There were moments he definitely would have gotten upset in the past, but this time Towns just walked away and accepted the calls. No smiles, no frowns, just focus and that played an important role in the Wolves beating the Bucks in Milwaukee for the first time since Towns arrived in 2015.

Towns offered a salty response when asked about his demeanor immediately after the game by Marney Gellner on Bally Sports North. “I think fans get the wrong impression,” Towns said. “I’m playing with (expletive) passion. That’s what I play with. I came in here to Minnesota, I play with passion, I’ve always played with passion. That’s what I want to do. I come out here with energy. If people don’t like that, I’m sorry for them. I’m coming out here to play with passion.”

Towns gave a different response in his postgame press conference, acknowledging that allowing the officials, or opposing team, to throw him off his game makes a great player only good. “I understood the assignment when these guys look up to me and they look up to my attitude and my response to (what) situations are,” Towns told reporters. “So just being very, I guess you could say, stoic, or not saying anything, so I don’t feed them the energy that they think it’s OK to start doing that.”

It’s pretty clear that someone, probably Finch, had a talk with Towns about his on-the-court antics and the need to control his emotions. It’s one thing to play with passion, it’s another thing to pout because things don’t go your way and allow that to distract you from winning games.

Whether Towns played his best game as a Timberwolf on Wednesday can be debated. What’s not debatable is that it was definitely the most mature game the soon-to-be 26-year-old has ever played.

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