Karl-Anthony Towns’s Big Night Turned Into A Big Bummer

It’s possible that NBA players are too good at basketball now. That is the thought that occurred to me when I settled in to watch what I assumed would be some ho-hum Monday night NBA action and was confronted with Joel Embiid scoring 70 points in 37 minutes against the Spurs and Karl-Anthony Towns scoring 62 points in 38 minutes against the Hornets. We saw two players score 60 points or more on the same day for the first time since 1978, and both guys are seven-footers who did most of their damage with jump shots. Is this allowed?

Perhaps it’s not. While Embiid spent the final stretch of Monday night’s game firing up shots to claim both the Sixers’ franchise scoring record and a win against the Spurs, Towns was unable to engineer a similarly heroic ending for himself. When the fourth quarter began, his team led the Hornets 107-92, and it looked like the big man would be afforded 12 minutes of runway to see how far he could take what was at that point a 58-point burst of scoring genius.

Here’s how Towns made use of that runway: he shot 2-of-10 from the field, repeatedly tried and failed to score by driving into gangs of defenders, briefly got yanked from the game after missing a layup and then failing to get back on defense while the Hornets took the lead with an open three, and then doomed the T-Wolves to a 125-128 loss by once again attempting a hopeless drive into multiple defenders that left him howling for a foul call with five seconds left in the game.

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All of that was bad enough for Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch to use the words “disgusting” and “immature” while describing his team’s performance. “It was an absolute disgusting performance of defense, and immature basketball all the way through the game,” he said. “There’s a lot of ways to be immature, and there was a lot of immature performances here throughout the roster. We totally disrespected the game, ourselves, and we got exactly what we deserved.”

Towns was similarly morose during his postgame chat with reporters. “You want to be able to have one of those nights on a win,” he said. “Having a night like that on a loss doesn’t feel very good, historic, whatever you want to say. It doesn’t make me feel happy about the night we had.”

Anthony Edwards, always one for being direct, cut right to the point. “Immature as fuck tonight,” he said in summarizing his team’s performance. When asked if the team lost its focus because they were too busy trying to get Towns the ball so he could score more points, he was honest: “Yeah for sure. Once he hit his first six or seven shots, I think everybody was just trying to see him go get 100 points. I know I was.”

For as disappointing and darkly funny as Towns’s career-best scoring night turned out to be, I can’t say it was exactly surprising that things went this way for him. If you had asked me yesterday morning which NBA player was most likely to score 63 points while also being the key cause of an embarrassing loss to the Charlotte Hornets, and have his performance overshadowed by a 70-point game from Joel Embiid on the same night, I would have picked Karl-Anthony Towns. Some athletes stand out as an example of what it looks like to live a truly blessed life; others are a reminder that even the best of us can’t fully avoid eating shit.

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