The Minnesota Timberwolves fell to the Indiana Pacers for the second time in 48 hours on Friday night, but their All-Star big man made his return to the court in the process.
For the first time since Dec. 13, the Minnesota Timberwolves had Karl-Anthony Towns at their disposal. And while the Wolves played better than they had the last few times out, it still wasn't quite enough to best the Indiana Pacers on their home floor.
The Wolves went 5-10 in his absence but had lost three games in a row heading into Friday night's tilt, including dropping a home game against the Pacers on Wednesday in the first half of the home-and-home.
It was another close game between these two teams, however, with the Wolves trailing by just six points at halftime and even taking a brief lead during the third quarter. After falling behind by double-digits late in the fourth quarter, the Wolves then went on an 11-0 run to draw even.
But then Towns stepped out of bounds on an in-bounds play (he drained the 3-pointer but it didn't count, of course) and after a stop on the other end, Andrew Wiggins stepped out of bounds after receiving a pass on the perimeter and the Pacers got the ball back again.
Indiana called a timeout and put Malcolm Brogdon in the pick-and-roll. The Wolves didn't play it well, with Josh Okogie incapable of getting around the screen and Towns dropping too far towards the paint. Brogdon dropped in a way-too-open floater to give the Pacers a two-point lead.
It was a combination of Okogie not defending tight enough, Towns not stepping up, and the weakside defenders (it looked to actually be Robert Covington's responsibility) weren't in a position to guard the roll-man, Domantas Sabonis, which caused Towns to sag even lower.
At any rate, the Wolves were then down by two with the ball. After a timeout, Andrew Wiggins drove into traffic and kicked the ball out to Shabazz Napier, who air-balled a deep 3-point attempt. Covington had and lost the rebound and ultimately forced a jump-ball with T.J. Warren. The Pacers won the jump, however, and that was effectively it.
The Wolves did a good job of limiting Towns' minutes; the 28 that he played was the least of any of the starters, and it might mean he could be available for Saturday's home game against Toronto.
Towns was solid overall, putting up 27 points on 9-of-21 shooting and 3-of-9 from beyond the arc. He only grabbed five rebounds and dished out one assist. Wiggins had 22 points on 9-of-17 shooting, four assists and two rebounds.
Josh Okogie had 15 off the bench on 5-of-7 shooting. Only four reserved appeared in the game for the Wolves overall.
T.J. Warren did the most damage for the Pacers with 28 points on 11-of-18 shooting and 3-of-4 on 3-point attempts. He also won the pivotal jump-ball in the final seconds of the game.
The Wolves return to Target Center to take on the Toronto Raptors. Toronto is fourth in the Eastern Conference and will also be on the second night of a back-to-back after hosting Washington on Friday night.