Jim Souhan
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DENVER – The Timberwolves practiced Saturday in Ball Arena. As teammates shot three-pointers, Karl-Anthony Towns, the longest-tenured Wolves player, donned an oxygen mask and, working with a trainer, slammed a medicine ball against a wall, then went through a series of exercises that would have looked at home on a yoga mat or in a boot camp.

Towns' offensive skills led the Wolves to make him the first pick in the 2015 NBA draft and to him becoming an All-Star and self-proclaimed greatest shooting big man in history.

The Wolves were practicing Saturday because Towns defied every clichéd notion about him in Game 6 of this series.

Thursday night, with the Wolves facing elimination against the Nuggets, Towns produced a mediocre offensive performance, yet it might have been the key to a stunning 115-70 victory, proving there is more than shooting in the KAT kit.

He was the primary defender against three-time MVP Nikola Jokic, one game after Jokic shredded the Wolves' defense. He had seven rebounds midway through the first quarter. He made the right passes.

As a shooter, he went 4-for-10 from the field and 0-for-4 from three-point range. For most of his career, that would have been evidence of an inept performance. In what might have been the biggest game of his career, the blue chip went blue collar.

"Listen, to me, it was one of his best performances," Wolves coach Chris Finch said. "Certainly of the season, and in many ways, since I've been here, in terms of he did everything the team needed on both ends of the floor.

"That was a microcosm of his entire year. The sacrifices he's made offensively, the commitment he's made defensively. Just being able to use his talent with such gravity, for the benefit of others, and staying patient while doing it. I thought it was just masterful."

In this series, the offensive production of all the stars has varied from game to game. What's new about Towns is his ability to win a big game even when his shot isn't falling.

"I thought it was a game where my teammates were great, hit a bunch of shots, played great team defense, had a bunch of steals and forced turnovers and we capitalized on that," Towns said, shrugging at the notion that his performance was special. "We got some fast break points, something we've been lacking for a couple of games. So I think we did a great job as a team."

His teammates noticed. Anthony Edwards produced what sounded like a profane comedy routine after Game 6, colorfully explaining that the Wolves almost always win when Towns avoids foul trouble.

"It's exciting," Wolves guard Mike Conley said, "when KAT plays the way he did. And it wasn't just his scoring. It was his ability to make reads, make on-time passes and things that I think he's been fighting a little bit throughout his career — it all came to a big moment there in Game 6. We said we're going to play through you and you're going to have to make the right decisions, and he did that, play after play after play.

"On the other end, defensively, he does a great job of making guys work within our scheme. I'm proud of his development. Hopefully, he brings that same energy to Game 7."

Towns has generally played well throughout the playoffs. He also went 5-for-18 from the field in Game 5 and was one of the reasons the Wolves lost.

Saturday in Denver, he dismissed statistics, instead talking about his team's "camaraderie, continuity and unity."

He played his best in the biggest game of his career, and now he will be asked to play his best in the biggest game of his career.

"We have a lot of trust," he said. "Trust that the experience, and the work we've put in will materialize into a win tomorrow."