Home Sports Karl-Anthony Towns and the Timberwolves needed this win: ‘Keep after it, and maybe the tide turns’

Karl-Anthony Towns and the Timberwolves needed this win: ‘Keep after it, and maybe the tide turns’

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Karl-Anthony Towns and the Timberwolves, after falling 0-3 in the series, forced a Game 5 in the Western Conference finals.

DALLAS – Karl-Anthony Towns’ play, his future with the Minnesota Timberwolves franchise and his responsibility on this team that went from being a toast of the NBA to a toast in the Western Conference finals had been examined in recent years. days.

The silly fouls, the shots, the horrible percentages were in the foreground. The player he has been for nine years was suddenly scrutinized by those who have always been tormented by his talent but frustrated by the lack of results his talent seems to demand.

More than anyone on that roster, even more than perennial scapegoat Rudy Gobert, Towns needed this. Not only to perform, but also to make an impact in victory. The value in a sweep would only go so far.

And then, in a 15-minute span where he was one foul away from disqualification, in a game where his team was one loss away from elimination, he dug deep and went to a place, a zip code, that he had never seen before. visited since he turned professional.

Anthony Edwards put it simply: “He was the reason we won tonight.”

Towns finally found the range at the time the Timberwolves desperately needed it, scoring 25 with five rebounds as Minnesota got on the board in this conference finals with a 105-100 victory, sending the series back to Minneapolis for Game 5 on Thursday night.

His three fourth-quarter 3-pointers occurred in a three-minute span: the first gave the Timberwolves a 92-90 lead and the last gave his team some breathing room with 2:54 left and a six point lead.

“I was very confident,” Edwards said. “I wasn’t worried about any shot before the one he made tonight. He played exceptionally well.”

The final quarters had been a problem for the Timberwolves in this series, and one could easily argue that the struggles fell on Towns’ shoulders. The Dallas Mavericks made the decision that Edwards wouldn’t beat them, and he couldn’t for the first three games.

He saw eyes, hands and feet his way, and with the way this team is structured, Towns has to be a dynamic scorer. What was a smart bet backfired for once on Dallas’ part, and for the first time in more than a week, the Timberwolves appeared to play like the composed team that was initially the favorite.

Karl-Anthony Towns celebrates a basket during Game 4 of the Western Conference finals. (Photo by Tim Heitman/Getty Images)

A lot can happen in eight days. Cities went from silencing the skeptics to bringing everyone back to life, in full effect, with the stakes higher than ever. It wasn’t about him putting up gaudy but ultimately empty numbers, it was about Towns denying his team a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

It was about Towns’ adjustment as this franchise moves forward, especially when his coach, Chris Finch, said his performance in Game 3 was “tough to watch” as Towns went 5-for-18.

“It’s been a very important part of all the series up until (now) and we knew we had to include it in this series,” Finch said. “Tonight was a big step towards that.

“KAT is a great player. His struggles were not going to last forever. He got into foul trouble, but we left him out there. He let it roll. He played smart, he played under control. Really proud of him.”

But if there’s a theme in these playoffs, specifically the last two years, it’s been players shedding the skin of disappointment, challenging the collective confirmation bias of first impressions of the NBA world and charting new narratives.

Like Nikola Jokić and the Denver Nuggets last year. Like the pairing of Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving this year. Like the Boston Celtics in the east.

It may be too late for Towns and the Timberwolves this year (the hole they’ve dug is probably too deep to recover from), but they’re too young to believe otherwise. This is not a very young team, there are veterans who express urgency, who are good enough to influence the victory, but can’t drive it.

“He’s been the talk of the series, when he hasn’t been able to make shots,” veteran guard Mike Conley (14 points, seven assists) told Yahoo Sports of Towns. “For him to block all that out and refocus his intention to win is impressive. The guy works his ass off and, not being rewarded for it in the first three games, it hurts to see him like that. But if you keep pursuing it, maybe the tide will turn.”

The Timberwolves walked into the American Airlines Center knowing a celebration could take place on this court, and all they had to do was cooperate, concede, “good job, good effort” and slink away into the offseason.

But these guys are spectacularly stubborn, oblivious to the most obvious statistics, and have the nerve to believe they’ll come back for a Game 6 and then a Game 7.

“This is not the time to have doubts,” Towns said. “I’m going to go out there, be aggressive. Shoot my shot. Like I’ve been doing in every series and have confidence in every shot I make.”

Towns fouled out when his team was up by eight, because of course this series needs more suspense in a compressed time frame. He just opened the door for Edwards, who slowly seems to be discovering the spaces in Dallas’ defense to assert himself.

Especially with Mavericks center Dereck Lively II out with a sprained neck, Edwards found more space: diving at bodies at the rim, rarely being rewarded for it, but being relentless in his approach.

Missing an elbow jumper with 1:25 left wouldn’t deter him from taking another one, from a deeper distance. So he put more elevation on his 20-foot shot, giving the Timberwolves a 102-97 lead with 38.8 seconds remaining.

“I was on the bench, I had a front row seat to see it, yeah, when I fouled out,” Towns said with a laugh. “I’m looking at Ant, kind of visualizing that brand. She got exactly to the place she wanted to get to.”

Edwards flirted with the triple-double again, with 29 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. But most importantly, this cheering group has reason to feel like they are growing, even through failure, despite the elimination that history says will surely come.

“We might as well change things,” Edwards told his teammates in the locker room, smiling confidently.

For the first time in this series, perhaps an anomaly, the powerhouse duo of Dončić and Irving had below-average performances. Dončić was spectacular, but could only muster magic in moments compared to his complete dominance of the game in the first three matches.

The Timberwolves were able to withstand Dončić’s 28 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists because they didn’t allow him to use the entire court as his personal home court, forcing him and Irving to shoot 33 percent each.

That’s a formula that seems repeatable for at least one more game. But can they grow even bigger in the span of two days, then another two days, then another?

“It’s not a question of can we or can’t we,” Conley told Yahoo Sports. “We have to.”

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