Karl-Anthony Towns went supernova on the Spurs on Monday, dropping 60 points and 17 rebounds in San Antonio.
While the Silver and Black struggled defensively all night long, the team still put on some solid offensive performances. Keldon Johnson set a new career high with 34 points to go along with eight rebounds and four assists. Dejounte Murray added 30 points, 12 assists and four boards. Lonnie Walker finished with 22 points, Jakob Poeltl had 21 and Devin Vassell chipped in another 17. It was the Spurs’ second-highest scoring night of the season, just behind the 144-109 win over the Detroit Pistons on Dec. 26.
- When I saw that Doug McDermott was going to be out for this game, I figured that Lonnie Walker or Josh Primo would move into the starting lineup, mainly because that’s what Gregg Popovich usually did before the Derrick White trade. If a starter had to miss time, Devin Vassell, a young guy, would often get the starting nod. And after the Derrick White trade, Vassell became the full-time starter. So I was a little surprised that Josh Richardson moved up into the first five. And don’t get me wrong, I like Richardson! He’s pretty seamlessly fit in really well on the team! But that chance to match up with a high-level player D’Angelo Russell for extended minutes was there for the youngsters. I was a bit disappointed Pop passed on it.
- I read Noah Magaro-George’s preview on this game ahead of time, and one of his notes was that the Timberwolves have six players making 3-pointers at an above-average clip, — and that none of their names were Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell or Anthony Edwards. And my immediate reaction was “that’s not good.” And then I watched the pregame show and they pointed out that since Jan. 17, Minnesota has been the most efficient offense in the league, averaging 118.7 points per 100 possessions. And I thought, “that’s really not good.” And sure enough, it was not. By the first timeout of the game, Towns had nine points, DLo had five, both had made 3s, Sean Elliott’s griping about how the Spurs have to run shooters off the line and San Antonio trailed 19-14.
- While the Spurs didn’t get off to the best start on defense, they made up for it by keeping pace on offense. Keldon Johnson hit all four of his first shots of the game, including three triples, and Devin Vassell hit his first three shots, including two treys, to help the Spurs go back in front, 27-26.
- The hot start wouldn’t last, as the T’Wolves closed out on a 14-5 run to end the quarter in front, 40-32. All five of the Minnesota’s starters had eight of more points and shot a combined 5-6 from beyond the arc. There’s a reason this team’s won eight of its past 10 games. Dejounte Murray missed a pull-up to start the second quarter, leading to a dunk on the other end and a timeout call by a heated Popovich. There’s a reason this team’s won eight of its last 10 games.
- Zach Collins helped the Spurs get back into it with some really inspiring rim protection. He came off the bench and started stuffing everything — three blocks on four Minnesota possessions. Even when Towns came back into the game and tried to go right at him, Collins bodied him up and Towns was called for a travel. He had some fire kicks on too.
- On a recent episode of the Basketball Illuminati podcast, Tom Haberstroh and Amin Elhassan researched and figured out that the NBA teams who get on national TV the most (e.g., the Warriors and Lakers) tend to get the more-experienced, higher-rated referees for their games. Meaning a game between two of the smaller market teams in the lower half of Western Conference standings probably aren’t exactly getting the cream of the crop. The refs started calling everything down the stretch of the second quarter — Towns even got whistled for a lane violation on a Jakob Poeltl free throw. There were four combined foul calls in the first quarter — there were 13 in the second. The slower pace helped the Silver a Black chip away at the lead, bringing it down to 75-73 by halftime. The Timberwolves finished the first half shooting 58% from the field, with the Spurs shooting 60%.
- *Stephen A. Smith voice* “Keldon Johnson is a baaaaaad man.” I thought when the whistle blew he was going to get a tech on this dunk (thankfully, he did not). That snarl is 10/10.
- Bill Land said early in the third quarter that the game was going to come down to “who could show some defense” in a high-scoring game. But the third quarter really just devolved into who could get to the free throw line the most. Most of the calls went Minnesota’s way. Patrick Beverly started doing ... Patrick Beverly things, Zach Collins got T’d up and Towns made a killing at the stripe, going 8-8 and putting the T’Wolves up 121-106 by the end of the period.
- Towns tied his career-high of 56 points with the team’s last possession of the third. San Antonio had absolutely no answers for him. They tried keeping him corraled on the perimeter and he hit stepback 3s in Zach Collins’ face. They tried running him off the line and he drove right to the rim. They tried triple-teaming him in the post and he just kicked it out to a wide-open Taurean Prince in the corner. The visitors scored 46 points in the quarter and 32 of them came from Towns, and NBA season high for a quarter. That, along with the foul calls, completely took the air out of the game for the Spurs. KAT, too, is a baaaaaad man.
- The Spurs did fine in the final quarter, cutting the lead down to 10 a couple of times. But Towns didn’t play for a second of it. you just knew that if T’Wolves got into any kind of real trouble, they’d throw him back in there to take over the game again. They ended up not needing to, waiting to put him in with less than three minutes left just so he could set a new record. He earned a foul call on a putback attempt, clinched a new career-high with a free throw, drilled a three from six feet beyond the arc and came off the floor as the fifth player ever to post 60 points and 15 rebounds in a game. It’s the most points an opponent has ever scored in the AT&T Center. It was a historic night for Minnesota, completely at the expense of the Spurs, who took the 149-139 loss.