MINNEAPOLIS — Karl-Anthony Towns had just finished overpowering the overmatched Utah Jazz, looking every bit the No. 1 overall pick the Minnesota Timberwolves made him last June.
And as he summed up a night that included 25 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks and 12 fourth-quarter points …
"I played absolutely atrocious," Towns said, pointing to his three turnovers, three missed free throws and a couple of defensive miscues in the third quarter that prompted coach Sam Mitchell to pull him. "Those mistakes can cost us a game. I played terrible."
Nevertheless, Towns’ "terrible" performance was one of the biggest keys to Minnesota’s 94-80 victory over the short-handed Jazz on Wednesday.
On a night when offence was hard to come by, Towns made 10 of 16 shots, including 5 of 6 in the fourth quarter.
"What he’s doing offensively for a 20-year-old is just amazing," Mitchell said. "The way he’s scoring the basketball, how efficient he is. But to Karl’s credit, when I took him out of the game he said, ‘Coach I know why you’re taking me out of the game.’ He’s a unique individual."
Ricky Rubio tied a career high with 17 assists and Andrew Wiggins scored 17 points on 6-for-17 shooting for the Timberwolves, who improved to 5-12 at home this season. Gorgui Dieng had 12 points and nine rebounds and the Wolves held off a late charge from the Jazz, who were missing Derrick Favours for a third straight game with back spasms.
Trey Burke scored all 23 of his points in the second half for Utah. The Jazz turned the ball over 19 times and were shooting an ugly 27 per cent late in the third quarter. They shot 35 per cent for the game and were 10 for 39 (25.6 per cent) on 3-pointers.
"This was an exhausting game, emotionally because you just fought, you fought, you fought and you were hopeful that at some point you kind of get over the hump and it didn’t happen," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said.
Gordon Hayward had 14 points for Utah, but attempted only nine shots. Trevor Booker grabbed 15 rebounds, and Jeff Withey had 13 points and nine boards.
The Jazz have been gutted by injuries to much of their foundation, including Rudy Gobert, Dante Exum and Alec Burks, and took another blow recently with Favours’ back spasms. Snyder has used Raul Neto in the starting point guard spot, career backup Withey at centre and rookie Trey Lyles in the starting lineup at power forward, and the results have been understandably sloppy.
The inexperienced point guards had difficulty getting Hayward involved in the offence early, with the focal point of the Jazz attack limited to just four shots in the first half. Instead the Jazz fired away from behind the 3-point line, missing 15 of their first 19 shots from deep.
"I think if we play the same way and we just have an average shooting night, we’ll be 20 points-plus better," Hayward said. "Like I said I think we made the right plays we just didn’t knock them down when we needed to."
Tayshaun Prince had eight points on 4-of-5 shooting and played terrific defence on Hayward. The 35-year-old came into the season determined to show he had something left in the tank, and he has accomplished his objective as a starter on a young team.
"When people tell me I’m done, I look at them like they’re crazy," Prince said. "Throughout my whole career, even when we won and when we didn’t win, the things I did on the floor didn’t show up in the stat sheet."
Jazz: They scored just 13 points and shot 20 per cent in the first quarter, their second-lowest scoring quarter of the season. … Rodney Hood missed his first nine shots. He finished 1 for 13 from the field and 1 for 9 from 3.
Timberwolves: Kevin Martin did not play for the fourth straight game. The Timberwolves are trying to trade the shooter, but have yet to find a taker. … Rubio became the first Wolves player with at least 14 assists in consecutive games since Terrell Brandon on Apr. 28-30, 1999.
Jazz: Host Portland on Thursday.
Timberwolves: Visit Detroit on Thursday.