Karl-Anthony Towns played basketball one season at the University of Kentucky where he averaged 10.3 points and 6.7 rebounds in 21.1 minutes.
Now in his third season with Minnesota, the 7-foot, 22-year-old center and No. 1 overall pick in 2015, is having a breakout campaign.
Last Sunday in a Western Conference match with defending NBA champion Golden State, Towns dropped in a team-best 31 points with a game-high 16 rebounds and helped the Timberwolves to a 109-103 win at the Target Center.
Towns scored 14 points in the fourth quarter and had key back-to-back baskets in the final minute.
Towns nailed an 18-foot fall-away baseline jumper that gave the Timberwolves a 106-103 edge and added a put-back layup for a five-point differential.
“This was an important game that we had to win,’’ said Towns, a native of New Jersey who made his first All-Star team. “Like I said, it’s like a swamp in the Western Conference and only the tough gators are going to get out and make the playoffs.’’
A three-pointer by Towns with 5:52 left in the fourth quarter pushed Minnesota (44 of 95 for 46.3 percent) ahead 99-92.
When Towns scored the Timberwolves moved in front 90-87 as 9:50 remained.
Minnesota (39-29) is in the No. 5 position while the Warriors (51-16) are No. 2 behind Houston (52-14), the team with the best overall record.
It was knotted at 84-84 after the third quarter, but the Timberwolves showed grit against Golden State, which was without two-time Most Valuable Player, point guard Stephen Curry, who recently reinjured his ankle.
Minnesota was without All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler, who will likely miss the rest of the regular season with a knee injury.
Golden State small forward Kevin Durant was the game’s leading scorer with 39 points and collected a team-high 12 rebounds.
When Minnesota power forward Taj Gibson (11 points with 13 boards), a former USC star, scored on a layup, Minnesota led 78-75 with 2:54 showing in the third frame.
Golden State (37 of 91 for 40.7 percent) forged a 68-62 lead with 7:13 left in the third quarter on a hoop by shooting guard Klay Thompson (21 points) on a pass from Durant (four assists).
The Warriors scooted ahead 62-55 at halftime as Durant tallied 19 points while Towns paced the Timberwolves with 15 points.
Golden State led 44-38 with 8:06 showing in the second quarter when shooting guard Shaun Livingston (eight points and four caroms) dunked after a pass from Thompson (five assists).
Minnesota led 34-24 after the opening period and 24-15 with 3:45 left on a hoop from small forward Andrew Wiggins (23 points and five boards).
Rick Assad has written about sports for the Pasadena Star-News and Los Angeles Times. Contact him at email@example.com.