With Karl-Anthony Towns pouring in 56 points for Minnesota in a win over the Atlanta Hawks, Mo Williams’s reign as the Timberwolves’ single-game scoring king came to an end on Wednesday. It lasted 1,170 days, and it never seemed to make much sense in the first place.
Towns’s career night — at least what qualifies for that status in his third season — was just the fourth 50-point game in the 29-season history of the franchise. With a dominant effort that also included 15 rebounds in 41 minutes, Towns almost single-handedly dispatched the Hawks, the Eastern Conference’s cellar dwellers.
Tom Thibodeau, the Timberwolves’ always-understated coach, managed to offer what registered for him as enthusiasm during his postgame news conference.
“It was an unbelievable performance right from the start,” he said. “His activity was tremendous.”
But while Towns, a power forward who still contains huge amounts of potential, is likely to break dozens of franchise records in his career, the single-game scoring mark is unusual in that he broke a Timberwolves record not held by Kevin Garnett.
But as good as Garnett was, he never had a game for Minnesota that topped the 47 points he scored on Jan. 4, 2005. That performance held the top spot in franchise history for more than seven years, but it was eclipsed first by Kevin Love in 2012 — an unsurprising development considering Love’s scoring prowess — and was later exceeded by two players who would seem to have no business at the top of any franchise leader boards.
Deciding which player is less likely to even briefly top Minnesota’s list is a difficult endeavor.
Corey Brewer, a player whose career average at the time was 10 points a game, dropped 51 points in a win over the Houston Rockets. Now with the Oklahoma City Thunder in his 11th season, Brewer has never had 30 points in a game before or since that night.
“I don’t think they knew what to do with him,” Coach Rick Adelman told reporters after Brewer’s record game. “We didn’t know what to do with him, either.”
Williams was not quite as unlikely to be a 50-plus scorer as Brewer was — Williams had two games of 40-plus points before his big game for Minnesota, though it had been nearly six years since the most recent one — but his huge effort came in just his 29th game with the Timberwolves. In all, Williams played just 41 games for Minnesota — 199 fewer than Towns already has — and averaged just 12.2 points a game. The single game accounted for 10.4 percent of the points he scored as a member of the team.
But Williams, who never lacked for confidence, was more than willing to boast about his big game afterward, claiming he had told Pacers guard C.J. Watson he was in such a zone that, “There was nothing you are going to do today, don’t even worry about it.”
Williams and Brewer certainly made for great trivia answers, but Towns is a more suitable single-game scoring leader for the team. Now Towns, the team’s lone healthy All-Star, will have to work to keep his team in the playoff hunt in hopes of ending a postseason drought that stretches all the way back to 2004.
The Timberwolves were as high as No. 3 in the Western Conference when Jimmy Butler was healthy, but since the veteran swingman went down with a knee injury, they have flirted with the draft-lottery zone of the standings. Wednesday’s win, combined with a loss by the Utah Jazz, put them at the No. 7 spot, but just 1.5 games ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers at No. 9.