Hours before Karl-Anthony Towns made history, he received some sage advice from a player who’s accomplished even much more than that.
“You know what, I think a lot of my points today came off one dribble going to the basket,” the Minnesota Timberwolves rookie told the Star Tribune after becoming the first teenager to ever notch 28 points, 14 rebounds, and four blocks in a single game. “With them being 6-9 and lighter and me being 7-foot, that’s not supposed to happen. I was just seeing openings. I was utilizing the little things KG taught me about getting to the basket, and it really worked.”
When Flip Saunders brought Kevin Garnett back to Minnesota at the trade deadline last February, this is surely what he had in mind. Even the Timberwolves’ late, great coach, though, couldn’t have imagined the future Hall of Famer’s influence paying such dividends so quickly.
Led by an utterly dominant two-way performance from Towns, and 18 points by fellow franchise cornerstone Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota beat the Denver Nuggets 95-78 on Friday and improved to 2-0 in 2015-16. The team will attend memorial services for Saunders this weekend before playing an emotional home opener against the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday.
When most consider the state of the Timberwolves’ rebuild, the supreme offensive talents of Towns and Wiggins come to mind first. It’s easy to see why, too. Minny’s precocious big man combines highly-advanced skills with rare quickness and overall dexterity, while its uber-athletic wing is already a brute in the post, draws fouls with ease, and showed a much-improved jumper during the exhibition slate. With Towns, Wiggins, and Ricky Rubio, the ‘Wolves have the makings of a great offensive team – eventually.
Defense is what’s winning Minnesota games more than anything else at the moment, though, which is especially surprising given the team finished dead last on that end of the floor last season. But the Timberwolves’ young, starring triumvirate are each plus defenders already, and the impact of Garnett is obvious. Though sample size and the quality of competition is certainly reason to pump the brakes on the notion of Minnesota being an elite defensive team this season, its early play is extremely encouraging regardless.
And as Towns and Wiggins continue making strides, the Timberwolves seem bound to achieve the balance necessary for lasting success – just like Saunders always imagined.