By DAVE CAMPBELL – AP sportswriter
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — This is Karl-Anthony Towns’ seventh season with the Minnesota Timberwolves, his status as a franchise player for this long-suffering organization firmly established.
For the first time in his NBA career, Towns has often said he feels fully valued.
His most recent performance was quite the showstopper: a franchise-record 60 points in a 149-139 win in San Antonio on Monday night. Cities also did it in just 36 minutes.
“He’s just so talented. He’s just that type of player,” said teammate D’Angelo Russell. “You look up and you see 60 and the whole team happy. Everyone is selfless. I think that was more what I appreciated. The performance was fantastic, but everyone wanted to see it too.”
When Towns was conducting an on-court television interview after the game, several teammates snuck up behind him and mischievously doused his head with water to celebrate the most point-scoring occasion by an NBA player that season.
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The Timberwolves have cheered for one another from the bench to the dressing room with a childlike enthusiasm and a selflessness unparalleled in team history.
“I appreciate that because I’ve never been celebrated,” said Towns, whose previous career best was a 56-point game against Atlanta on March 28, 2018. “They make those moments special.”
The affable and emotional Towns is known for making such exaggerations. The difference in chemistry with this team compared to the others he has played for in Minnesota is clear. Towns has also emerged from a grueling couple of seasons wrestling with injuries and, of course, COVID-19. His mother died of complications from the virus in 2020.
As Towns poignantly noted on Twitter Tuesday morning, his 60-point game was two years to the day that his mother, Jackie Cruz-Towns, was hospitalized with COVID-19 in New Jersey.
“I just got a stronger guardian angel than I’ve ever had,” Towns said. “I feel like I was created by God to be successful. I really can’t explain it. I just feel like this year after everything I’ve been through, just having this group of guys around me set me up for success. I’ve never had this kind of camaraderie, unity, and chemistry since college. Having everyone, from 1 to 15, involved in everything we do makes years like this possible.”
Towns, who became the rare post-player to win the NBA’s 3-point contest at All-Star Weekend last month, has helped the Timberwolves (40-30) solidify their grip on seventh place in the Western Conference consolidate. It would keep them home for the play-in tournament if they don’t catch Denver (41-28) in sixth place.
The Timberwolves have won two of three games against the Nuggets this season, with a visit to Denver on April 1. It’s its best in four years with 10 games over .500, ending the 2017-18 season 47-35. That’s the only time they’ve made the playoffs since 2004 when Towns was 8 years old.
“People are clearly seeing how incredibly talented KAT is and what he can do, and they also see that there will be nights where he might take eight or 10 shots and do whatever else the game needs, be it rebound or defensive presence,” coach Chris Finch said. “He responds really well to his teammates. He’s a guy like all of us: we need our teammates’ confidence to be our best version of ourselves.”
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