MINNEAPOLIS — Angry after two rough games, Karl-Anthony Towns had to channel his emotions in a productive way — a skill he’s still trying to master.
Towns found his peace at the free-throw line. Seventeen tries gave him plenty of time to stay calm.
He roared back with a career playoff-best 33 points and 14 rebounds, helping the Timberwolves recover from their Game 3 collapse and pull out a 119-118 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday night to even the first-round series at 2-2.
“Just taking a chill pill, calming down and understanding the next game, there’s another chance,” said Towns, who hit 14 of his foul shots — including a pair of makes with 4.4 seconds left.
Anthony Edwards scored 24 points and backup Jordan McLaughlin, who didn’t play in Game 3, went 4 for 4 from 3-point range for 16 points.
The Timberwolves relentlessly attacked the basket and were rewarded with 40 free throws, 31 of which they made. Memphis was called for 33 fouls.
“I have never seen a more inconsistent and arrogant officiated game,” said Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins. “I’ll take whatever hit’s coming my way.”
Dillon Brooks and Ja Morant offered to cover their coach’s inevitable fine. The Memphis starting five had a whopping 25 fouls compared to Minnesota’s 23 total fouls.
“Terrible,” said Morant, who had four fouls. “I don’t even foul like that.”
Desmond Bane, who hit his eighth 3-pointer at the buzzer to finish with 34 points, kept the Grizzlies going early. Brooks, with 24 points, helped keep them in it late. It was another quiet night for Morant, the star point guard who had 11 points on 4-for-13 shooting with 15 assists and eight rebounds.
“I’m not Ja right now,” said Morant, who indicated he’s not at full strength. “I’m not playing above the rim.”
The series shifts back to Memphis for Game 5 on Tuesday night.
“Even after everything, you still only win the game by one. It just shows you the margin of error in this game and then the playoffs, especially when you’re playing a team like this,” said Towns, who took four shots and had just eight points in Game 3.
Patrick Beverley missed two free throws with 43 seconds left. With the Wolves leading 115-110, Morant answered with a layup and Edwards missed a pull-up 3. But Tyus Jones had his 3-pointer fall short with 10.5 seconds to go, and Edwards grabbed the rebound. He sank both free throws as the crowd chanted, “Wolves in six! Wolves in six!”
McLaughlin’s first 3 put Minnesota in front in the second quarter to start a 17-1 run that maxed out with a 50-35 lead — the largest of the night that quickly got whittled by the Grizzles back down to single digits.
Bodies crashed to the floor on almost every possession in what was perhaps the most physical game of the series to date. Morant, who has been playing through nagging leg injuries, took several hard landings after layup attempts.
Grizzlies backup Ziaire Williams sustained an eye injury in the second quarter, when Morant drew a flagrant foul on D’Angelo Russell as he drove to the hoop and caught a hand to the face.
Edwards left for a bit in the first quarter with an injury to his right knee unrelated to any contact, but after having trouble walking to the locker room for further examination he returned less than 3 minutes later without any trouble.
“Everybody playing through something, you know?” Edwards said.