MINNEAPOLIS — Karl-Anthony Towns made his long-awaited return to the Target Center floor on Wednesday night, and there were seemingly few restrictions or rust on him. That was tested in a major way when Towns stepped to the free-throw line to win the game with 3.6 seconds left.
Amid a hushed arena, an arena that had been in a frenzy when he was introduced pregame, Towns hit both free throws and the Wolves forced DeAndre Hunter to airball a right corner 3-pointer for a 125-124 victory.
Even despite nearly four months off, Towns had the ball in his hands at the top of the key with the Wolves down one and 7.2 seconds remaining. He drove on forward John Collins, who was called for a foul with 3.6 seconds left. Towns then capped the night with his 21st and 22nd points for the win.
The Wolves had grabbed the lead without Towns on the floor in the fourth thanks to a big night from Naz Reid, who led a 16-2 surge that gave the Wolves a 121-116 lead with 3 minutes, 31 seconds remaining. But the Hawks rallied for six straight and then again led by one, 124-123 with 50.5 seconds to play. Reid had 26 while Jaden McDaniels had 25.
In the first half, the teams each came out with more focused offense than they had defense. The Wolves led for most of the half as they shot 50%, but Atlanta kept pace with a 57% performance. The difference was the Wolves scoring 12 points off eight Atlanta turnovers for a 67-62 lead headed into the locker room.
The defensive struggles carried over to the third when Atlanta went on a 13-2 run that gave it the lead, and the Hawks led 97-94 headed into the fourth prior to Towns’ dramatics.