Karl-Anthony Towns isn’t one to take games off.
After missing the first two of his career following concussion-like symptoms stemming from a car accident, Towns returned with a flourish on Monday to lead the Minnesota Timberwolves to their fourth win in five outings.
Towns looks to continue the Timberwolves’ spirited surge toward a postseason berth when the club opens a three-game road trip against the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday.
The two-time All-Star center recorded 34 points on 13-for-18 shooting from the field and added 21 rebounds in Minnesota’s 112-105 victory versus Sacramento on Monday.
“That’s a line we’d like to have most nights,” interim coach Ryan Saunders told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “He was aggressive, our guys did a nice job getting the ball to him, especially early on.”
Saunders was referring specifically to the second quarter, when Towns scored 18 points, including 11 during the Timberwolves’ decisive 20-1 run.
While the 23-year-old’s performance gave the home fans a thrill, Minnesota needs to alter its fortunes on the road (9-21) if it plans to punch a ticket to the playoffs for the second straight season. The Timberwolves (29-31) reside three games behind San Antonio for the final postseason berth in the Western Conference.
“We’ve got to set a different intensity, a different edge, a different animal,” Towns said. “This is the time. We’ve got to make a push.”
Towns collected team highs of 31 points and 19 rebounds in a 123-120 overtime loss to Atlanta on Dec. 28. Derrick Rose added 25 points and nine assists.
Rose chipped in with 20 against the Kings, marking the fourth time in five outings he has scored as many points.
Fellow guard Tyus Jones stepped in admirably for the injured Jeff Teague (knee), who averages a team-best 8.1 assists. Jones scored eight of his 16 points on the fourth quarter.
Atlanta enjoyed a fast start in its first meeting with the Timberwolves. The Hawks scored a season-high 42 points in the first quarter and built a 22-point lead that they eventually squandered, before surviving.
Atlanta (20-41), however, sputtered out of the blocks on Monday and sustained its sixth loss in eight games with a 119-111 setback to Houston.
Although rookie Trae Young set career highs with eight 3-pointers and 36 points, he didn’t put much stock in his performance.
“For me, I’ve grown up with a dad who raised me that winning is the only thing that matters,” said Young, who was the fifth overall pick of the 2018 NBA Draft. “So for me, of course you want to play well, of course you want to do well in the game and help your team, but at the end of the day, I don’t feel good about it.”
Young scored 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field and had 11 assists in the first meeting with the Timberwolves.
Fellow guard Kent Bazemore had a team-high 23 points in that game. He matched that total in Saturday’s 120-112 victory versus Phoenix before being limited to 13 points on 4-of-10 shooting against the Rockets.
Forward John Collins, who averages a team-best 19.1 points and 9.6 rebounds, had 21 and 10, respectively, in the first encounter with Minnesota.
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