StaTuesday: Wolves’ Towns bounces back with huge game

Whether due to Jimmy Butler’s influence or some other factor, Karl-Anthony Towns didn’t look quite like himself in the early goings this season.

Whatever it was, it looks like he’s over it.

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Towns went off Saturday in a 15-point win over former teammate Zach LaVine’s Bulls, dominating the paint to the tune of 35 points and a season-high 23 rebounds and tacking on six assists for good measure.

It was a symbolic performance of sorts, a decisive victory over one of the biggest beneficiaries of the long and sometimes sordid Butler saga.

Towns’ game was just the second 35/20 game so far this season. Nikola Jokic, himself a rising star in Denver, had 37 points and 21 rebounds two weeks prior.

It was a particularly rare game by Wolves standards; There have been just six 35/20 games in Minnesota’s history, and Towns is responsible for three of them.

His first, a 37/22 performance during a loss to Houston on Feb. 25, 2017, came almost six years to the day after Kevin Love’s only such game.

Love, then 22, had 37/23 in a win over Golden State on Feb. 27, 2011.

Al Jefferson, then 24, dropped 36/22 in a loss to Houston on Feb. 7, 2009.

Unsurprisingly, a 26-year-old Kevin Garnett got there first, leading the Wolves to a win over Golden State with a 37/22 game on Feb. 16, 2003, amidst one of the best seasons of his 21-year career.

On the surface, this looks like business as usual for Towns, who scored 30-plus points a dozen times last season en route to his first All-Star nod.

Indeed, he had 39 points in the final game of the Butler era, an 11-point road loss to Sacramento.

But Towns’ production has increased across the board in Butler’s absence.

Before the Butler trade

GP PTS TRB AST
13 19.9 10.8 2.1

After the Butler trade

GP PTS TRB AST
8 22.3 14.4 2.4

That’s squarely between his averages from 2016-17 — the best of his career, statistically — and 2017-18, his only season with Butler.

It’s not a huge sample size, but if Towns’ resurgence continues, he could be in for a few more of these games in the months ahead.