Great performances are timely rather than planned, and that rings true with Karl-Anthony Towns’ career night.
Towns made quite the statement in the Minnesota Timberwolves’ 149-139 win over the San Antonio Spurs, pouring in a career-high 60 points that not only became a Timberwolves franchise-record, but also stands as the highest single-game scoring performance this season.
Try as the Spurs did, Towns could not be contained, pretty much scoring at will especially in the pivotal third quarter, when he nearly outscored San Antonio by himself, 33-32 (much to Town’s surprise as well). The 32 points he scored also put him in fifth all-time in NBA history for points scored in a single quarter.
The three-time All-Star’s seven 3-pointers and 19 field goals tied his previous career-highs, but his efficiency despite the large shot volume (61.3/63.7/93.8 shooting splits on 31 shot and 16 free throw attempts, respectively) makes this performance all the more exceptional.
Nevermind that this came against the slumping Spurs, who have lost their last two games since helping San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich become the all-time leader in regular season wins. Sixty points is still a big deal, as only six active players (Devin Booker, Stephen Curry, Carmelo Anthony, Damian Lillard, James Harden, and LeBron James) have scored more than Towns in a single contest. Moreover, huge scoring games this season have rarely been for naught as among the 10-highest scoring individual performances in 2021-2022, only Trae Young’s 56 points came in a loss.
Wilt Chamberlain by and large (no pun intended) dominates the NBA’s record books for single-game scoring records, but you would have to go back to March 6, 2000, when Shaquille O’Neal dropped 61 points on the hapless Los Angeles Clippers, to find a more recent 60-point performance from someone who could pass off as a traditional big man.
Towns’ big night could not have come at a better time, as an earlier contest between the Denver Nuggets and the Philadelphia 76ers saw MVP frontrunners Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid have a battle for the ages, with Jokic and the Nuggets coming out on top. That Towns followed it up with this seismic performance only serves as a reminder that the NBA is not short on talented big men despite its reputation as a league driven by perimeter players.
The significance of Towns’ 60-point effort also goes beyond how it won the game, as it caps off what has so far been a 9-2 run for Minnesota since the All-Star break. Within that span of time, the Timberwolves were able to inch closer to Denver, who now only have a game and half lead over Minnesota for the sixth seed in the Western Conference.
If the Timberwolves continue to rack up wins, they could even usurp the Utah Jazz for the fourth spot and home-court advantage at least through the first round of the playoffs. This type of run will certainly help Minnesota shed the label of a losing franchise, as the Timberwolves remain on track to enter the postseason for the second time in five seasons and only the seventh time since 2000.
Towns won’t be alone when trying to achieve this as he has solid backcourt mates in Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell, who only combined for 24 points in the win over the Spurs but won’t be lacking production-wise on other days. The rest of the roster is more balanced than in recent years as he can also count on Jaden McDaniels, Taurean Prince, Jaylen Nowell, and the disruptive Patrick Beverley, among others, for effort and production on both ends of the floor.
Scoring across the league has gone up over the years, but it hasn’t diminished the luster of virtuoso performances such as Karl Anthony Towns’ 60-point effort earlier today. Showings like these serve as a reminder that any one of the NBA’s marquee players can light it up on any given night, making any conversation for the best player, let alone big man, an evolving one.