Karl-Anthony Towns pokes fun at Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau after playing 43 mins in playoff win

The New York Knicks did not make the playoffs, but they continue to be part of the basketball conversation.

After the sighting of Knicks executives in Dallas during the series opener between the Mavericks and the Utah Jazz made social media rounds, it was Tom Thibodeau’s turn to get the spotlight.

Minnesota’s All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns referenced his former coach, Thibodeau, after playing a game-high 43 minutes in the Timberwolves’ huge 130-117 upset of no. 2 seed Memphis Grizzlies in Game 1 of their Western Conference first-round series.

A reporter asked Towns, who produced 29 points and 13 rebounds if he’s comfortable playing in the mid-40s.

When was the last time I played 43 [minutes]? I know when it was — Thibs,” Towns said with a chuckle. “So, I’m prepared for it. I’m prepared for it.”

Thibodeau earned a bad rep for running his players to the ground because of his penchant for leaving his starters late in blown-out games that led to injuries to his stars from Derrick Rose to RJ Barrett most recently. But while Towns played his most minutes in his two seasons under Thibodeau (37.0 minutes per game in 2016-17 and 35.6 minutes the following year), he was dead wrong in implying that it was the last time he played 43 minutes.

Towns had also played 43 minutes earlier this season, ironically, against the Grizzlies last Nov. 8, 2021. He also had a pair of 42-minute games this season in Charlotte (Feb. 15) and New Orleans (Jan. 11). He finished the regular-season averaging 33.5 minutes per game, his lowest since the 2018-19 season.

Towns was right, though, in giving credit to Thibodeau for preparing him to play longer minutes.

During his time in Minnesota, Thibodeau defended giving out long minutes to his key players.

“I think every team is different,” Thibodeau said in 2018. “If you have younger players, you’re going to play them a little bit more. If you have guys in their mid-30s, you’re probably going to pull back on it.”

Thibodeau explained that main players will always get more minutes and will always be based on matchups.

“I think people sometimes get caught up in the wrong stuff,” Thibodeau added in the January 2018 interview. “The most important thing is winning.”

Towns’ season-high-tying 43 minutes against the Grizzlies led to winning basketball. He has a funny way of saying Thibodeau was right all along.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

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