Let's Go Back & Remember Karl-Anthony Towns' 56-Point Game
What do you remember about Karl-Anthony Towns’ 56-point game against the Atlanta Hawks back in the 2017-18 season?
Maybe you remember where you were, Towns’ clutch, 17 fourth-quarter points or the playoff implications the game had. After Jimmy Butler’s knee injury, the Wolves fell to eighth place in the Western Conference, and in hindsight, we now know one more loss would have resulted in an expanded playoff drought.
And you more than likely know the significance behind the 56 points, which set a new franchise single-game scoring record after topping Mo Williams’ previously-held record of 52 points in a 2015 game against the Pacers.
Towns also became the 13th player in NBA history to ever record at least 55 points and 15 rebounds in a single game. James Harden joined that list in 2019, but greats such as LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo have yet to accomplish that feat.
Towns’ first bucket of the historic night is still what sticks out to me the most.
Earlier in the week, the Wolves had dropped an eight-point loss to the 20-win Memphis Grizzlies. KAT still recorded a double-double in the loss, but Marc Gasol held him to 15 points on 5-for-13 shooting.
We learned early on that things were going to be different against the Hawks.
The Hawks got off to an early lead after Jeff Teague and Andrew Wiggins controlled the Wolves’ first four possessions. Towns didn’t even get an opportunity to take a shot until nearly three minutes of the game had passed.
When Towns finally received an entry pass from Teague, he was sending a message.
Towns caught the pass about halfway between the left block and elbow with John Collins glued to his back. KAT took two dribbles with his right hand, backed up Collins, turned his left elbow to add some physicality, then gathered and continued to plow into the paint, never fading in the slightest.
After that shot, we should have immediately known it was going to be a memorable night.
KAT went on to lead the opening quarter with 10 points, making four of his six shot attempts which included a right-handed drive to the hoop which ended in Mike Muscala getting absolutely pummeled in the jaw. (Since no one got seriously injured, it’s fun to freeze Towns’ highlight video after all of his makes to catch his opponents’ reactions.) No one was stopping KAT that night.
Towns continued to put on a shooting clinic in the second quarter in which he was 6-for-8 from the field and 2-for-2 from beyond the arc. He gave us a textbook fadeaway shot that gave the Wolves a four-point lead with less than two minutes remaining in the first half and turned a lob pass from Jamal Crawford into a two-handed slam, again at Muscala’s expense.
Another remarkable aspect of Towns’ game was that he still managed to record four assists. Towns had to have known he was doing something special, but he still refused to take poor shots for the sake of setting a new record.
With just over two minutes remaining in the game, Teague was stopped by Muscala near the baseline and kicked it out to Towns who was open near the top of the key. As Muscala (poor guy) ran out to Towns to contest an assumed shot attempt, KAT collected his dribble and returned the ball to Teague who hit a corner 3 to expand the Wolves’ lead to 13. That pass will unanimously go down in the Hall of Fame of extra passes.
Towns was still at 45 points with under four minutes remaining in the game, hit a new career-high 48 points at the free-throw line with 3:35 remaining in the game and after the Hawks’ cut the deficit to seven points, he notched 50 points with an explosive take that ended in him landing on the ground before receiving “MVP” chants from fans while at the free-throw line.
He topped Williams’ record with a corner 3 assisted by Tyus Jones then extended the record by using a Wiggins swing pass to return to the charity stripe where “MVP” chants resumed.
Smiles were galore in Target Center that night. That’s an atmosphere we probably took for granted at the time but are longing for now. The current NBA season may be suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, but we can still relive some of the best moments in Timberwolves history while we wait for Towns to return hungrier than ever.