How does Karl Anthony-Towns return influence Timberwolves’ playoff push?

(Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Berding/Getty Images) /

Minnesota Timberwolves fans can rejoice. Timberwolves’ PF Karl Anthony-Towns is back in action after 114 days and 52 games.

Following an offensive-dominated matchup against the Knicks, the Wolves were able to rattle off another victory, making it two wins in a row all while still missing star shooting guard Anthony Edwards. In a return most fans will remember for years, Towns put up an efficient 22 points in 26 minutes of action in a victory over the hungry Atlanta Hawks.

Emotions were running high during a game many would have considered a must-win for Minnesota, and that sentiment could be heard by the fans in attendance at Target Center. From the moment KAT graced the hardwood once again, the Wolves faithful were ready to erupt at the sight of their star big putting the ball in the bucket.

Now with Towns back, Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch will be looking to get his big three working to develop their chemistry together in anticipation of a postseason run, and what a time to do so. With only eight games remaining, each matchup will have an almost playoff atmosphere.

Fans will be optimistic in the hope that Edwards will return to the lineup in a big Sunday night game against the reigning NBA Champions: the Golden State Warriors. If this is the case, we will finally be able to see the trio of KAT, Ant, and Gobert for the first time since November.

A healthy Timberwolves roster unlocks plenty of playoff potential

With a fully healthy roster, Gobert’s gravity as a paint presence should, in theory, open up more three-point opportunities for Ant and KAT. Throughout the season we’ve seen significant progress in working in Gobert as a roll and lob threat, especially following the acquisition of PG Mike Conley Jr. at the NBA Trade Deadline.

Staying with Conley, we saw glimpses of the potential two-man game he could develop with Towns last night. I’m sure a lot of Timberwolves fans have heard the word “fit” thrown around when it comes to Conley’s role within the team, and well, I think we saw that last night.

Conley Jr. had a great game anchoring the offense, putting up a modest 13 points and six assists. Where he shines though is as a traditional point guard, calming down the offense, getting into sets, and keeping control of the rock, as the vet finished with zero turnovers.

Now that we’ve covered what could be referred to as the Timberwolves’ “marquee” players, I want to discuss a few standout role players, specifically those who performed well against Atlanta:

Forward ahead

Jaden “The Quiet Storm” McDaniels has been playing out of his mind as of late. Tracking back to the Bulls game where Edwards sustained his injury, McDaniels has really stepped up as an offensive player.

Over his last four games, he’s been on a tear, averaging 21.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 2.3 assists. The most impressive thing throughout this stretch has been his efficiency, hitting 48.3 percent of his field goals, 52.4 percent of his three-pointers, and 90.5 percent of his free throws.

McDaniels tied his career high in points against his Atlanta, which he had recently set in the aforementioned Bulls game. Another player who had a monster game against the Hawks was Minnesota Timberwolves backup center, Naz Reid.

A lot of Wolves fans seemed to be nervous that Naz Reid would get lost in the rotation after KAT re-entered the lineup, but fortunately, that wasn’t the case. In the first game with all three bigs back on the court, Reid put together a 26-point performance in just 26 minutes.

Lastly, I feel like I would regret not mentioning Minnesota Timberwolves’ versatile point-forward Kyle Anderson, affectionately known as Slo-Mo due to his command of the Eurostep. Slo Mo has really stepped up in Towns’ absence, as he was initially meant to be a catalyst for the second unit, but has embraced a primary facilitator role while being in the starting lineup.

Throughout their injury woes, Coach Finch has been fortunate to have multiple role players step up and embrace larger roles. Power forward Taurean Prince took over in the game against the New York Knicks, Naz Reid dominated against the Atlanta Hawks, and who knows who’ll take on the next challenge?

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With Towns back in the fold, and hopefully Edwards soon, the Minnesota Timberwolves are poised to make one positive final push to the NBA Playoffs.