Everyone beats the San Antonio Spurs these days. Currently mired at 26-43, the Spurs are a perfectly muddled team; not good enough to compete in a deep Western Conference, but not bad enough to be either interesting or funny enough to pay much attention to. That is, unless Karl-Anthony Towns comes to town and decides to unload a points barrage the likes of which the NBA had not seen this season: 60 points on 19-of-31 shooting and a ludicrous 7-of-11 from three.
There's already been digital ink spilled on this site about how good the Timberwolves—the Timberwolves!—have been this season, so a win over the Spurs isn't much to write about. What Towns did on Monday night, though, and especially what he did in the third quarter, surely is. Nursing a 75-73 lead and with the game still hanging in the balance, Towns went to work and never really stopped. He scored 32 points in the third—the fifth-highest total for a quarter in NBA history—pushing that two-point lead to a whopping 15. Minnesota was never really in danger after that frame.
In those 12 minutes Towns showed off every tool in his arsenal. After Jakob Poeltl blocked an early layup, Towns went 9-for-11 from the field in the quarter, with four threes. He also added six rebounds, helping push his total to 17 on the night. While I'm not a fan of cherry-picked stats to make a performance look better than it was, this one works because the performance in question was self-evidently sterling: Towns is now the first and only player in NBA history to score 60 points, grab at least 15 rebounds, and shoot over 60 percent from three-point range.
It's not just his shooting that shone on Monday, but also his ability to mix it up in the paint. Towns has been a good three-point shooter since his third season in the league, but this season, he's adding a key skill for a budding star: he's getting to the line more often than ever. His free-throw rate this season is .387, which is the highest mark of his career. On Monday, he took 16 free throws, making 15 of them. He's becoming close to un-guardable anywhere on the court, as the Spurs found out the hard way.
If there was one thing that slowed down Towns, it's the same thing that has slowed him down throughout his career: foul trouble. With 56 points already in the bag, tying this season's NBA high, Towns went to the bench after picking up fouls four and five within 11 seconds of each other halfway through the fourth. That would have been a good night regardless, but Towns came back in to hunt for his 60, and he got it, how else, with his final three-pointer of the game. That it came when the Spurs had trimmed the lead to single digits only makes it better.
Towns, and by extension the Timberwolves, are peaking at the right time. They are now 9-2 in their last 11 games, and sit only 1.5 games behind the Nuggets for the last safe slot outside of the play-in games. They're winning games they should win, like on Monday, and games they probably shouldn't, like against the East-leading Heat on Saturday or the Warriors on March 1, or even the Grizzlies last month. Towns won't go for 60 every night, or even 30, but his ability to score from every corner of the half-court has been a boon throughout the post-All Star break run. After being "years away" for years, Minnesota and its offensive bulldozer of a big man have arrived.