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Inside Karl-Anthony Towns' mindset: Timberwolves star 'locked in' against Grizzlies

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MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns was subbed out of Game 3 on Thursday and let out his frustration as he walked by teammates en route to his seat.

“Get me the motherf***ing ball,” he shouted at teammates as he took his seat during the first-round playoff matchup. “These motherf***ers can’t guard me. S***, let’s go.”

The Timberwolves didn’t get him the ball, resulting in the three-time All-Star shooting only four times in 33 minutes of play. His team’s inability to work him into the offense contributed to a monumental collapse that ended in an 104-95 defeat.

Towns was left enraged, down 2-1 with Memphis on the cusp of gaining complete control of the series. When asked about his touches, he hit reporters with a “next question.”

Throughout that game, Towns was overly conversational, whether it was voicing exasperation, supporting teammates or trash talking.

In a critical Game 4 on Saturday, Towns was the exact opposite. He emerged from the tunnel for his pregame workout with a scowl and didn’t make eye contact with anyone for potential brief greetings or chats. He didn’t say a word while taking his pregame shots.

Minutes later, Grizzlies star Ja Morant took to the court for his pregame workout, passing right by Towns. The big man didn’t even acknowledge his presence with a glance in the guard’s direction.

A tone was being established.

Towns drilled a triple from the top of the key 13 seconds into the game, causing the fans to erupt. The impassioned star immediately looked at his hands and uttered profanities while getting back on defense. A half minute later, without hesitation, he drove around Xavier Tillman to draw the foul at the basket.

Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns celebrates against the Memphis Grizzlies during Game 4 of their NBA playoffs first-round series at Target Center in Minneapolis. (Brad Rempel/USA TODAY Sports)
Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns celebrates against the Memphis Grizzlies during Game 4 of their NBA playoff first-round series at Target Center in Minneapolis. (Brad Rempel/USA TODAY Sports)

He fell on the ground after the contact, but promptly hopped up with no assistance and walked swiftly near half court to prepare for his free throws.

And two minutes after that play, Towns was at the top of the key and drove past Brandon Clarke. He tried to viciously flush one down on Jaren Jackson Jr. He was fouled on the aggressive attempt and again, he walked swiftly near half court to prepare for his free throws without saying a word.

The crowd was ecstatic.

Three minutes into Saturday’s game, it was clear Towns would dominate. In 42 minutes of action, he exploded for 33 points and 14 rebounds to lead his team to a narrow 119-118 victory to even the series at two games apiece.

“I was just determined to force [the Grizzlies’] hand,” Towns told Yahoo Sports after Game 4. “I was going to be aggressive and do whatever it took to get the ball. I went about different ways of attacking, different points of attack and different ways of getting the ball in my hands. We all watched tape and we all had to get the job done. That’s what it was about for me.”

He let his play do the talking on Saturday.

The 26-year-old veteran was mic’d up for the game on Thursday and was heard saying, “We in Minnesota now,” when the Timberwolves were in control of the contest in the first half.

Morant found that clip on Twitter after their comeback victory and responded.

Towns spoke on the playful banter between the two stars.

“I want to make this clear: I’m not a guy who’s on social media. So, I didn’t know what was said back or anything. But my dad, of course, would be the one to tell me what Ja tweeted,” Towns told Yahoo Sports. “Ja’s dad told my dad about how Ja said something back. So I’m good. It’s good competitive basketball. You gotta love playoff basketball.”

The two fathers — Karl Towns Sr. and Tee Morant — have made this series even more entertaining with their comical wisecracks as they root for their sons in their courtside seats.

Towns says he’s enjoying observing his father’s happiness.

“It’s awesome for my father to get to watch one of his best friends’ sons play against me. It’s really cool and a great experience,” Towns told Yahoo Sports. “It’s something that I don’t think many people get to experience in this league. It’s something that’s very different to see two superstars going at it in the NBA and it’s actually their dads, not the players, who are super good friends. So then the players build the bond around that. I think it’s just really cool, dope and I’m very fortunate that my dad gets to have these experiences in life. That’s how I look at it. I’m just very fortunate that I get to have these experiences with my father while he’s here.”

As for Game 5 on Tuesday, Towns said his aggressive approach won’t change.

“I’m staying locked in,” Towns told Yahoo Sports. “We got more work to do.”