MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota’s season-opening victory over Detroit was winding down, and Karl-Anthony Towns was urged by teammate D’Angelo Russell to grab the game ball as a keepsake.
For mom, in memory.
Towns had 22 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists, leading the Timberwolves past the Pistons 111-101 on Wednesday night after a pregame moment of silence and moving tribute video for the All-Star center’s mother. Jacqueline Cruz-Towns died of complications from COVID-19 in April.
“When you go through what I’ve been through, you just find a different source of strength. I don’t know how to explain it. I made a promise to these guys to be here for them,” Towns said.
Malik Beasley scored 23 points, Russell pitched in 18 points, and Anthony Edwards — the first overall draft pick last month — added 15 points in his debut as the Timberwolves overcame a deficit that often reached double digits and was still 12 points midway through the third quarter. In a promising sign for this long-languishing franchise, they leaned on their defense to come back.
“We grew up, man,” Towns said.
Towns had to do a lot of that off the court this spring and summer, while the NBA paused for the pandemic.
“You may see me smiling and stuff, but that Karl died on April 13th,” Towns said. “He’s never coming back. I don’t remember that man. I don’t know that man. You’re talking to the physical me, but my soul has been killed off a long time ago,” Towns said.
Towns, who made Minnesota’s first basket after an 0-for-7 start by the team, gave the Timberwolves their first lead of the game at 98-97 on a 3-pointer with 3:38 remaining. Russell hit one with 2:05 left for a 103-101 edge, Towns rebounded a missed deep shot on the other end by Derrick Rose, and Beasley buried one with 1:28 to go to send the Wolves on their way.
Josh Jackson (19 points) and Rose (15 points) provided plenty of production off the bench, but the Pistons sputtered down the stretch and were outscored 31-16 in the fourth quarter. Rookie Killian Hayes, one of the team’s three first-round draft picks, had three turnovers in the fourth quarter.
“That’s what this is for, for him to learn from and get better in those situations,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said.
Blake Griffin, the six-time All-Star, had 15 points and seven rebounds after his 2019-20 season was limited to 18 games by another left knee injury. The first overall pick in the 2009 draft, one of the few prominent players left after the overhaul commissioned by new general manager Troy Weaver, took only one shot in the fourth quarter.
Jackson was the standout of a disappointing night. The rest of the Pistons shot 5 for 28 from 3-point range.
“That’s part of my role on this team, to come out and spread the floor,” Jackson said.
Pistons: Mason Plumlee pitched in 14 points, eight rebounds and six assists. He went 7 for 8 from the floor.
Timberwolves: Towns and Jarrett Culver (10 points, 10 rebounds) became the first Minnesota pair to record point-rebound double-doubles in a season opener since Kevin Garnett and Rasho Nesterovic in 2002.
Pistons: Host Cleveland on Saturday for their home opener.
Timberwolves: Start a three-game road trip at Utah on Saturday.
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