NEW ORLEANS – As cameras and recorders gathered around Karl-Anthony Towns following the Timberwolves' 121-120 victory over New Orleans, Towns' locker neighbor Rudy Gobert took the opportunity to have some fun with Towns.
"That's what movies are made of," Gobert said with a smile. Towns chuckled back.
Gobert was referencing a melodramatic Towns quote from last season when Towns hit game-winning free throws against Atlanta in his first game back from a calf injury.
The Wolves don't have a happy ending on Saturday without Towns and his nearly perfect game: 29 points on 10-for-11 shooting, including the game winner with 5.2 seconds to play. He had nine assists, zero turnovers and didn't foul out of a game in which he picked up his fifth foul with 6 minutes, 39 seconds to play.
When Gobert wasn't kidding with Towns, he said Saturday was one of the best games he has ever seen Towns play.
"I feel like he's grown a lot since last year, and even this year from day one training camp," Gobert said. "Tonight, I thought was one of the best games I watched him play. He was 10-for-11. Insane. ... He made the right play and let the game come to him."
Towns' game Saturday was a snapshot of what his critics hope he can do every night. He was in control on the offensive end. He remained composed and didn't lose his cool despite the foul trouble, which cost the Wolves another star player in Anthony Edwards.
"He unguardable when he in his bag," forward Jaden McDaniels said. "Shooting on one leg, one arm. When KAT's hot, we can go far."
Edwards fouled out with 10 seconds to play and wasn't available after Brandon Ingram, whose shot at the buzzer came up short, broke a 119-119 tie by hitting one of two free throws for the Pelicans, who were without Zion Williamson and C.J. McCollum.
Edwards did his part to help the Wolves erase a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit with 23 points, including 10 in the fourth. But in an odd way, his absence helped clarify who was going to get the ball on the Wolves' final possession. With Towns playing the way he was, maybe Edwards fouling out was a blessing in disguise since he didn't have the pressure of taking the final shot.
"That was weird," Towns said of going out for the final possession sans Edwards. "If that wasn't the situation we would've gone a different way. We probably go to Ant. I'm just happy we got the win. If it was me taking the last shot or Ant, I feel very confident and happy about our chances."
Towns got the ball near the top of the key. He said he wanted to act quickly before a double team made him give up the ball. He also sensed the defense expecting him to go right, so he drove and banked in a running shot from nine feet without committing an offensive foul.
"Honestly, the refs and the players were already trying to look for an offensive foul going right, so I'm going to go left and got to the spot," Towns said. "I've had a lot of success with that shot late in games going left."
There was still one more stop to get on a night the Wolves struggled to get them, especially early in the night (the Pelicans shot 54%). Towns' last bucket marked just the third lead the Wolves had all game. But McDaniels provided the defense on Ingram (30 points) on the Pelicans' last possession as his 20-footer fell short.
"Jaden got it done," Edwards said. "When we realized it was an iso [isolation play], it was over with."
And back to Minnesota they come, after completing this five-game road trip 4-1. It marked the first time they went 4-1 on a five-game road trip since 2014. Edwards and Gobert each said the Wolves likely wouldn't have won this game a season ago, and Towns mirrored the rest of the team: composed under pressure and didn't let the circumstances of a big deficit in a road environment get to him.
"It's early. We got to keep doing it," coach Chris Finch said. "But we got a lot of guys who play hard, play for each other."