Northwest Notes: Towns, Nowell, SGA, Little

Karl-Anthony Towns provided an uplifting moment by returning from a long absence caused by a calf injury to help the Timberwolves defeat the Hawks on Wednesday, writes Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Towns received a thunderous ovation from the Minnesota crowd in his first appearance in roughly four months, then capped off the night by hitting two free throws to secure the victory.

“This is what movies are made of,” Towns said. “You come back, (52) games missing, sellout crowd, Target Center, and you get the ball with seven seconds left, no timeouts. You’ve got to make it. I mean, it doesn’t get better than that. … To be able to come up big for my teammates is all I’ve ever wanted to do.”

Towns’ return helped the Wolves climb back to .500 and move up to seventh in the crowded Western Conference playoff race. It also brought back the challenge of trying to effectively play him alongside Rudy Gobert, a combination that often seemed awkward before Towns got hurt.

“We’ve got to find a way to make the two-big lineup work,” coach Chris Finch said. “It has to be who we are in these last eight games. We have the flexibility to go a lot of different directions. But when a guy’s playing this well, he deserves to be out there in some form or fashion. It’s my job to figure it out.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Timberwolves guard Jaylen Nowell is back in the lineup after missing 10 games with left knee tendinopathy, but the condition is likely to continue for the rest of the season, according to Chris Hine of The Star-Tribune. Nowell is attempting to manage the pain enough to get on the court, and he was able to return to action Monday. “It was slow and long. Just really tough,” Nowell said of the rehab process. “There were times it felt good, then would play on it for like five minutes and it wouldn’t feel good. We just kind of had to sit and do a lot of treatment. It was tough, just getting out there and watching the game, not playing. But glad to be back now.”
  • Coach Mark Daigneault said the Thunder are “open-minded” about using Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in both games of back-to-backs for the rest of the season, tweets Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. Oklahoma City faces the Clippers tonight and will stay in L.A. for Friday’s game against the Lakers.
  • Nassir Little missed Wednesday’s game after entering concussion protocol, the Trail Blazers announced (via Twitter).
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