WASHINGTON — A shot to the mouth left Minnesota Timberwolves centre Karl-Anthony Towns with some damaged teeth. His sense of humour? That, at least, was intact.
"Mom always says, 'Keep your hand off the stove,' and I put my hand around the stove a little too much now and it was destined to happen that I'd get hit like that and lose my tooth," Towns said with a smile. "But instead, God blessed me with losing pieces of five of my teeth."
Towns recovered from that hit to the jaw that left him face-down on the court late in the first half and finished with a season-high 37 points and 10 rebounds, leading the Timberwolves to a 116-111 victory over the Washington Wizards on Tuesday night.
"Good thing I got good medical insurance," Towns joked afterward.
Both teams are making their playoff pushes without All-Star guards. The Timberwolves are missing Jimmy Butler, who had surgery on his right knee on Feb. 25, while the Wizards don't have John Wall, out since late January because of an operation on his left knee.
Towns stepped up in so many ways during this game, helping the T'Wolves outscore the hosts 34-21 in the fourth quarter to overcome a 10-point deficit with 10 minutes remaining.
He shot 13 for 17 overall, including making all three of his 3-point attempts, one from the corner with 29 seconds left that expanded a narrow lead to 114-109 with 29 seconds left.
Towns earlier provided the assist on an inside basket by Andrew Wiggins that capped a 20-3 run for Minnesota and put it up 105-98 with less than 5 1/2 minutes remaining.
And later, with Washington down 114-111 and inbounding the ball with 15.8 seconds left, Towns went out on the perimeter to defend guard Bradley Beal, who wound up throwing a bad pass that was intercepted by Jeff Teague.
The Wizards weren't so sure the defence on that play was completely clean.
"What I saw was different (than) what the referee saw," Washington coach Scott Brooks said. "The guy had two hands on him, pushed him out."
"He just pushed me out of bounds. That was kind of a crazy pass for me to make," said Beal, who scored 19 points. "He was forcing me out, so I had to get rid of it."
Still, Brooks acknowledged: "But that didn't lose the game. We lost the game because we couldn't stop them from scoring in the paint."
After the getting knocked in the chin with about a minute to go in the second quarter, Towns remained down on his stomach briefly, then rolled onto his back, and Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau came out to check on him. Eventually, Towns got up and went over to the bench, holding his jaw.
Towns was back out there to open the second half, and he kept getting the ball down low — and kept putting it in the hoop. Wizards starting centre Marcin Gortat, in particular, put up little resistance while trying to guard the All-Star known by his initials, KAT.
"Karl," Thibodeau said, "was big shot after big shot."
Timberwolves: Thibodeau on Butler's recovery from surgery: "He's not jumping, but he's ... running. He's moving along pretty well." ... Ended a seven-game losing streak in road games against Eastern Conference opponents and improved to 3-10 in such games this season. ... After entering the fourth quarter 1 for 9 on 3-point tries, went 6 for 12 the rest of the way.
Wizards: Markieff Morris scored a season-high 27 points. ... Brooks is not entirely sure when Wall will return to full-fledged practicing after missing 1 1/2 months so far. Brooks also doesn't know how much Wall will get a chance to play before the regular season ends.
The Wizards allowed the Wolves to score 64 points in the paint, the fourth game in a row Washington has given up at least 60. "We're getting beat on backdoors. We're getting beat off the dribble," Brooks said. "And if you do that, you can't expect your bigs to protect you every time."
Timberwolves: At San Antonio on Saturday.
Wizards: At Boston on Wednesday.
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