SALT LAKE CITY – The Jazz had just called timeout and Karl-Anthony Towns was locked in a stare. He was looking at the hoop where he had just drained his seventh three-pointer of the night, admiring his work as if the ball were frozen there.
It would be natural if there was a little extra motivation for Towns in squaring off against Utah’s Rudy Gobert, the center who beat him out last season for the third All-NBA slot, meaning Towns’ contract will be worth about $34 million less over five years.
And after some moments where it seemed Gobert was getting the best of him in the post, Towns found a successful counterattack — bombing away from three.
That’s how he led the Wolves to a 112-102 victory over the Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena, an improbable victory given the circumstances: Andrew Wiggins missed his third consecutive game, this time because of illness, and opponents had blown out the Wolves in two games without him.
“This is obviously a place where we’ve had a lot of classic Timberwolves-vs.-Jazz these recent years,” Towns said. “This is just another game to add to that archive.”
Towns was 7-for-15 from three-point range and had 29 points and 13 rebounds in a statement performance for him and the Wolves.
He had some help off the bench from recent G-League call-up Kelan Martin, who had 14 points. Despite the All-NBA snub, Towns insisted there was nothing extra on the table for him in this tangle with Gobert.
“Another matchup,” Towns said. “Fans don’t want to hear that. Media don’t want to hear that. They want to make something out of nothing, but truthfully it’s another matchup for me personally. That’s how I feel. I go out there and I don’t take no one lightly. We got to get wins, and it starts with me playing as best as possible.”
He hit that level in the fourth quarter.
With the Wolves down 88-85 and 6:31 to go, Towns hit a three to tie the score. Then another on the Wolves’ next possession to put them up three. Then another, two possessions later — the one he stopped to take in, from the top of the arc and a few feet beyond. That put them up 96-90 with 4:45 to play.
When asked what he was thinking after that third straight three went in, Towns said: “I’m going to leave that for the court. I’m just going to say it felt pretty good.”
That was evident on his face.
“I was feeling really good,” Towns said. “I was feeling really juiced.”
There was still work to do to close out the game. Martin, who came in shooting just 4-for-18 in his NBA career, buried a corner three and hit two more runners inside to help the Wolves maintain a 13-point lead.
“I was just going to keep shooting,” Martin said. “Coaches told me, ‘KAT’ told me he was going to keep finding me.”
Martin’s contribution was especially timely given the Wolves lost Jake Layman in the first half because of a left foot injury. Layman was in a walking boot after the game and his status is day-to-day. Jeff Teague added 21 points and 11 assists.
The Wolves, who play Utah again at Target Center on Wednesday, had a game plan to draw Gobert away from the basket in order to open things up inside.
For most of the night, he left enough room for Towns to shoot. Towns took advantage when it mattered most.
“Everyone was telling me to shoot it,” he said. “But I’m like, don’t worry about me. I’m going to keep throwing them up, and they’re going to go in.”