Karl-Anthony Towns finally returned to the court last night after missing 13 games due to COVID-19. The Minnesota Timberwolves have been abysmal without him, sitting at 6-17 and last in the Western Conference. Despite his return, the Timberwolves lost to the Los Angeles Clippers 119-112 on Wednesday, further reducing their playoff hopes. What does the return of Towns mean for the rest of the season?
Overview of Karl-Anthony Towns’ Return
The Game Result
This was Minnesota’s most encouraging loss of the season so far. After allowing the Dallas Mavericks and Oklahoma City Thunder to score 70-plus points in the first half in their past two games, the Clippers were held to only 47 points after the first two quarters. Minnesota flew around the court for the entire half, contesting shots, grabbing tough rebounds, and running in transition. In the second half, the youth began to show itself, particularly in the fourth quarter. The Timberwolves gave up eight points off turnovers, allowing the Clippers to build a wide enough lead to close out the game.
Time with Josh Okogie
Towns’ impact was palpable within the first five minutes of the game, starting with a made three and a dunk in transition. His gravity immediately opened up the game for players like Josh Okogie. The Clippers planned to sag off of Okogie and bring that defender towards Towns. Okogie can take advantage of that extra space to cut into the paint and score, leading to 10 points on 50 percent shooting in the first half. Okogie is elite on defense and typically assigned to the other team’s best player. Yet, his lack of offensive skill can make him a non-factor at times. Ideally, his synergy with Towns would keep him passable enough on the offensive end to play for extended periods of time.
Karl-Anthony Towns’ Return from COVID-19 Recovery
In the hours before the game, Shams Charania tweeted that Towns would be available to play against the Clippers. Towns replied saying otherwise.
This is news to me! Last time I checked, I was gonna go through shootaround and see how I feel. Underlying conditions and Covid don’t mix well. https://t.co/1fZHSTWnEt
— Karl-Anthony Towns (@KarlTowns) February 10, 2021
Though Towns did end up playing 31 minutes, the team will have to monitor Towns’ lung capacity to be sure he can play consistent heavy minutes. Hopefully, Towns and D’Angelo Russell will be able to play together again on Friday’s game against the Charlotte Hornets. Russell is currently out with left quad soreness. Russell and Towns have only played five games together since Russell arrived, so these upcoming games will be a great opportunity to estimate the team’s ceiling.
Outlook on Karl-Anthony Towns’ Return
The Golden State Warriors own Minnesota’s top-3 protected pick this year. With Towns’ back in the lineup there is no incentive to tank, as lottery odds are much more unpredictable than in the past. Still, the trade deadline is approaching fast. Minnesota’s front office needs to decide if the performance of its young players makes Ricky Rubio and Juan Hernangomez moveable. This team clearly has potential. It’s just up to the coaching staff to build a system that maximizes their talents.
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