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Wolves Need ‘Missing’ KAT for Memphis

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April 13, 2022

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The Timberwolves are in the playoffs for only the second time since 2004. Will their “missing” KAT be a major contributor in Saturday’s opening playoff game in Memphis against the Grizzlies?

Karl-Anthony Towns played 24 minutes last night in Minnesota’s play-in-tournament win at Target Center, qualifying the Wolves to meet the Grizzlies in a potential seven-game series. Metaphorically, the KAT was “MIA.”

Often labeled the team’s best player and a possible second or third team NBA All-Star when honor teams are announced this spring, the 6-11 veteran center was awful last evening and a non-contributor in a dramatic 109-104 win over the Clippers. He had a minus 14 rating when on the floor (by far the worst among his teammates) and he fouled out in the fourth quarter while playing only a couple of minutes in the game-determining last period.

The Clippers, instead of guarding Towns with another center, used mobile forwards to defend the Wolves’ season leading scorer. When Towns had the ball, he often was double teamed by the Clippers’ center. The strategy flustered Towns who forced shots, tried to move where there was no space and didn’t get rid of the basketball quick enough to open teammates.

Neither Towns nor head coach Chris Finch seemed to adjust. Instead of taking a position down near the basket, Towns either remained stationed near the top of the key or sometimes went to a corner where he was usually out of the offensive and rebounding action.

Before halftime Towns had four fouls. In the third quarter he played recklessly including bowling over opponents while picking up his fifth foul and going to the bench.

At 9:27 of the fourth quarter, Towns was back in the game. By 7:34 he was gone, committing his sixth and final foul while foolishly reaching over the back of a Clipper attempting to rebound the ball. He left the game without impacting it, scoring 11 points (five on free throws), grabbing five rebounds and committing a team high four turnovers.

The Clippers, although they boast a $39 million forward in Paul George, aren’t the talent equal of the Wolves. The going gets much tougher against the Grizzlies, who are the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs after earning an impressive 56-26 regular season record.

Maybe Towns and Finch can figure out Xs and Os to combat the defensive strategy the Grizzlies are likely to use after seeing the results by the Clippers. As for discombobulating, the 26-year-old Towns is an emotional player on an emotional team. Finch has experience working with excitable personalities but on the court it will ultimately be up to the big guy to figure out how a KAT can “purr” against Grizzlies.

Worth Noting

In The Athletic’s end of season NBA power rankings of 30 teams, the Wolves finished No. 15, the Clippers No. 16. The Wolves, with a 46-36 record after last year’s 23-49, received a final grade of A. The Clippers, playing much of the year without their two best players in George and Kawhi Leonard, received an A minus.

The Saints, Timberwolves, Twins and Wild all played home games last night. Total attendance estimated: near 60,000 (on a work and school evening).

The Timberwolves had tickets available Tuesday morning but announced a sellout last night.

Tyus Jones

Brothers Tyus and Tre Jones, former Minnesota Mr. Basketball winners now playing with the NBA Grizzlies and Spurs, finished No. 1 and 2 in assists-to-turnovers ratio among league players this season, per Teamrankings.com. Jordan McLaughlin of the Timberwolves was third.

The Twins announced today they have placed outfielder Alex Kirilloff on the 10-day Injured List with right wrist inflammation. Also, they designated right-handed pitcher Jharel Cotton for release or assignment.

To replace Kirilloff and Cotton, Minnesota has recalled outfielder Trevor Larnach and selected the contract of right-handed pitcher Dereck Rodríguez from Triple-A St. Paul.

It could be the Twins try to trade right fielder Max Kepler, 29, and first baseman Miguel Sano, 28. Both veterans have ongoing hitting issues, and while they aren’t alluring trade bait, they might bring pitching help with major leaguers or prospects. Trading Sano could allow the Twins to move Kirilloff from left field to first base, a position he is more effective at.

Hall of Famer Rod Carew writing in the latest issue of his newsletter: “There’s a saying that the most important ability is availability. Unfortunately, that’s the only ability missing from Byron Buxton’s game.

“This guy is so unbelievably talented in every aspect, yet only once has he played more than 92 games. That also was the year (2017) he won his only Gold Glove.

“Bux could win a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger award if he can stay healthy. …”

Athleticsnation.com reports feral cats have invaded the Oakland Coliseum, home of the A’s. Good news is the rat population has declined and presumably the cats will be under control before the Twins play there starting May 16.

A’s ownership is tiring of its pursuit to make a deal with the city for a new stadium, with talk the MLB club could land in Las Vegas playing in a new small capacity covered stadium.

It will be a special Kentucky Derby for Minnesota thoroughbred racing fans next month. Local Derby authority Steve Erban believes 2022 will be the first time two of the 20 entrants in the “Run for the Roses” will have Minnesota owners.

Joni and Barry Butzow of Eden Prairie own Zozos, while Jeff Drown from St. Cloud owns Zandon. That means 10 percent of the field of three-year-olds May 7 will have Minnesota owners.

Remarkable, too, said Erban is that approximately 30,000 foals are born each year, so what are the odds of two with Minnesota connections being in the 2022 Derby? Or that both horses have names beginning with Z?

Erban’s Stillwater-based Creative Charters is running another Kentucky Derby trip this spring. To check on availability, contact him at 612-801-7141.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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