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Karl-Anthony Towns returns for Timberwolves as they chase top spot in West with 2 games left

All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns starts for Wolves after missing 18 games due to a lateral meniscus tear in his left knee.

Karl-Anthony Towns returns to the starting lineup in front of the Timberwolves’ home fans on Friday.

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Karl-Anthony Towns returned for the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night after missing 18 games with a lateral meniscus tear in his left knee.

The All-Star forward had been sidelined since March 4. He had surgery to repair the injury on March 12.

Towns started Friday’s game against Atlanta, which the Wolves won, 109-106. The 7-footer finished with 11 points, 5 rebounds and 8 assists on 4-for-11 shooting (1-6 3PM) across 27-plus minutes.

“He looks great,” coach Chris Finch said. “He’s looked really good all throughout. Now it’s just time to get him up to speed physically.”

Minnesota entered Friday trailing Western Conference-leading Denver by one game and tied with Oklahoma City. They are now tied after wins by the Wolves and Thunder paired with a shock Nuggets loss to the Spurs, with Oklahoma City emerging from the three-way tiebreakers.

Towns is averaging 22.1 points, 8.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. Minnesota went 12-6 in his absence and will begin the playoffs on April 20 or 21.

Finch said there would be no significant limits on Towns’ minutes.

“He needs to let the game come to him and just kind of fit into the rhythm of the team,” Finch said. “He’s done a good job in the conversations I’ve had with him recently picking up the nuances and the things the team’s doing well right now and understanding how to fit into it.”