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As Anthony Edwards threw the ball to Karl-Anthony Towns late in the fourth quarter Friday night, Towns said he was "well aware" that he hadn't hit a three in his first game since March 4.

But Towns didn't hesitate, and he sank the shot that put the Timberwolves ahead for good in a 109-106 victory over the Hawks. When Towns returned from a calf injury a season ago, he hit the winning free throws in a game that was also against Atlanta at home. This time, he gave them a 101-100 lead with 2 minutes, 29 seconds to play.

"I knew if I got another chance like last year, I'm going to make the shots," Towns said. "Got a chance from Ant, amazing pass, drive, kick to the corner, something I've been watching him do so much more since I got hurt. Just wanted to be able to be another person who can do that for him."

Towns looked rusty in his return — 11 points on 4-for-11 — but he had eight assists, and the fact that he was out there at all was one of the biggest developments for the Wolves as they get ready for the playoffs. Towns said he beat what everyone thought was going to be a longer projected recovery time from left meniscus surgery. He also anticipated it would take less time to get back to himself on the floor since this was a shorter and easier recovery process than last season's.

"There was very much doubt around all of us that I would not be ready until second round, third round," Towns said. "So I heard the doubt and got competitive, got very competitive with it. Attacked rehab as tough and as hard as I can. Something that seemed to be a lot more time, I made it way less time."

Towns wasn't the only one making a notable return to Target Center on Friday night. Minority owners Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez were sitting across from the Wolves bench for the first time since their public spat over the future of the team began with controlling owner Glen Taylor late last month. Taylor, meanwhile, was in his usual seat near the Wolves bench.

All involved left happy with a Wolves win that kept their hopes of getting the No. 1 seed alive.

With the win and Denver's loss to San Antonio, the Wolves, Nuggets and Thunder are in a three-way tie atop the Western Conference. Oklahoma City holds the No. 1 seed based on the teams' head-to-head records against one another (5-3), with the Wolves coming in second at 4-4. The NBA said it marks the first time ever that three teams have the same record atop one conference through 81 games.

The Wolves benefited from the Hawks resting their starters in the fourth quarter of a game that meant nothing to Atlanta, who's locked into the No. 10 seed in the East.

With Edwards struggling (14 points, 4-for-12) because of an illness and Towns trying to get back into form, the Wolves likely wouldn't have won without the night Rudy Gobert had. Gobert had 25 points on a perfect 10-for-10 to go with 19 rebounds. Coach Chris Finch said there's a subtle difference between players who can help a team win and players who keep a team from losing. Gobert, with his consistency, has been the latter.

"Since I was a kid, I never really liked to lose," Gobert said. "So I think a lot of it starts there. But I think a lot of it is experience too, realizing how every game matters, how every possession matters. I hate to lose the game by two points and then have regrets, so I try to give everything every minute so I have no regrets."

After the game, Towns and Gobert spoke to Bally Sports North, and Gobert teased Towns by saying, "This is what movies are made of," a reference to a quote Towns had when he returned last season. For Gobert and the rest of the Wolves, it was good to have Towns back.

"He gave us a little lift," Gobert said. "And it was perfect timing for us."