On Thursday Karl-Anthony Towns was in a car headed for the airport when it was rear-ended by a semi truck, a crash Towns said he felt blessed to walk away from.
On Friday and Saturday, under the NBA’s concussion protocol, he watched the Timberwolves from the bench, a sports coat-clad cheerleader.
Monday, Towns returned.
In a much-needed 112-105 victory over Sacramento at Target Center, Towns had 34 points, 21 rebounds and five assists, all while being limited to less than 31 minutes by foul trouble. Towns was the fulcrum in a 20-1 second-quarter run that gave the team the lead for good.
He wasn’t alone. In a tribute to the Wolves’ 2015 draft class, Tyus Jones — starting for the injured Jeff Teague — scored eight of his 16 points in the fourth quarter, and his two steals late holding off the charging Kings. Derrick Rose scored 20, his third consecutive game with 20 or more.
From start to finish it all just felt good as the Wolves (29-31) won for the fourth time in five games. It was good for Towns, especially; he had never before missed an NBA game.
“You know, you’re so used to grinding your body to dust every single day,’’ said Towns, who hit 13 of 18 shots and had two blocks. “You don’t get a chance to realize how much you appreciate being out there. I’ve always wanted to be available for my teammates. But, when you sit out, you’re realizing little things you may have taken for granted.’’
The Wolves, off to a slow start, trailed by 10 only 4-plus minutes into the second quarter. Word on the bench was: enough.
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“We got tired of playing the way we’d been playing,” Taj Gibson said. “We challenged each other.’’
Luol Deng hit a three-pointer, and the Wolves were off. Towns had 11 points in that 20-1 run, a total of 18 in the quarter, in which the Wolves outscored the Kings 44-23, scoring 16 points off nine Sacramento turnovers.
And while it might have gotten interesting late, the Wolves never trailed again.
“It was defensive intensity,’’ interim coach Ryan Saunders said. “That was the big thing. We had a spirited timeout. We talked as a group. That’s one of the many things I love about the guys on this roster. Guys take things to heart. Sometimes it works out better than at other times. Tonight it worked out.’’
The Wolves’ lead grew as large as 17 points in the third quarter and was still at 15 points midway through the fourth when the Kings (31-29) got going.
Sacramento’s Marvin Bagley scored nine of his 25 points in the fourth quarter as the Kings chipped away at the Wolves lead, pulling within 108-104 on Bagley’s three-pointer with 3:05 left.
Jones coaxed De’Aaron Fox (23 points) into consecutive turnovers and Towns had two big rebounds late.
“I was just trying to make a play, be in the right spot,’’ Jones said. “They were being extremely aggressive trying to get to the hoop late in the fourth.’’
Now about to head out on the road for three games, starting Wednesday night in Atlanta, the Wolves have a bit of momentum.
“This is the time we have to make a push,’’ Towns said. “We don’t make a push, our season is over. We have to play with some desperation.’’