For the Minnesota Timberwolves, Derrick Rose was the story of Halloween night, and rightfully so. His career-high 50-point outburst in a thrilling win over the Jazz was a revelation and is destined to stand as the feel-good story of the young season, not to mention a cathartic moment for Rose given his years-long decline amid devastating injuries.
But the Wolves also needed some assistance from Karl-Anthony Towns, who quietly chipped in 28 points, 16 rebounds, four assists, and a pair of blocks on 4-of-9 shooting from behind the arc to help seal the tough victory at home on Halloween night when the team was without both Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague.
After back-to-back breakout performances from KAT amid all the turmoil throughout the organization, the young big man has to be breathing a sigh of relief. Maybe it was the shoes.
The situation in Minnesota had already reached its tipping point before the season even started. That happened the moment Jimmy Butler reported to practice – after the front office failed to come through on his trade request – and proceeded to berate and humiliate his teammates, management, the coaching staff, and whoever else happened to be in earshot.
Karl-Anthony Towns was at the center of it and has been from the very beginning. He’s been the primary target of Butler’s self-righteous ire and accusations about lack of mental toughness and heart. And for the first week-plus of the season, Towns was proving him and all his detractors right.
He struggled through the first five games of the season; in fact, he wasn’t faring much better than a certain guy whose name has been synonymous with foolishness for the better part of his career.
But in his last two games, KAT has been looking like himself again. In a tough win over the Lakers on Monday, he put up 25 points, 16 rebounds, and six assists and hit 50 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc. In the Wolves’ Halloween night showdown against the Jazz, he filled up the box score once again and was far more aggressive in attacking mismatches when they presented themselves.
Coincidentally, it happened to be on a night that Butler sat out with general soreness. It’s tempting to read too much into that, but it’s only one game. The good news for Wolves fans is that KAT is just generally being more aggressive over the last two games. He had 16 points on 3-of-4 shooting from downtown in the first half alone on Wednesday night and ended the game with a season-high four three-pointers on the night.
It was Derrick Rose who stole the show on Wednesday against Utah, but Towns’ performance is far more important to the Timberwolves’ future. Towns was passive early on, asking to come out of the game after airballs and had the Wolves’ announcers openly questioning his desire to play, which is, to be nice, less than ideal for your franchise player with a new max extension. However, if he can keep up this level of play, he’ll silence all the critics who wondered whether Butler might be right about him lacking the mental toughness to overcome a difficult situation in Minnesota that, unfortunately for everyone involved, still doesn’t have a resolution anywhere in sight.