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Karl-Anthony Towns drops 27 against Pacers in return from knee injury

Karl-Anthony Towns looked good immediately in his return to the court on Friday night.

The Minnesota Timberwolves center scored a team-high 27 points at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, his first game back after missing 15 with a sprained left knee.

It just wasn’t enough. 

The Indiana Pacers edged the Timberwolves to grab a 116-114 win, their second against Minnesota in three days.  

“Never like losing, but you can feel good about some things that we saw tonight,” Minnesota coach Ryan Saunders said, via Fox Sports North. “I thought KAT in 28 minutes, 27 points, and he’s still trying to find his rhythm … I’m happy with how he looked.” 

Towns hurt his left knee against the Los Angeles Clippers on Dec. 13, though he had 39 points and 12 rebounds in that loss. He had been listed as day-to-day for most of the past month while undergoing treatment, something Saunders said got off to a slow start after Towns’ knee didn’t respond well early.

Towns could have made his debut earlier this week, too, but was sidelined with flu-like symptoms for games against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday and the Pacers on Wednesday. He even had to visit the hospital briefly.

Saunders, who admitted he was expecting Towns to be more rusty in his return, said the team will evaluate Towns again on Saturday before deciding if he plays in their game against the Raptors on Saturday night.

Even though it didn’t go his way on Friday, Towns said he was just happy to finally be back out on the court again.

“The game of basketball is a very fragile thing,” Towns said, via Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “I had to take my time and had an unfortunate setback getting sick. If I could really say, I’m just so happy basketball is here for me, because it was some great therapy for me today.”

Towns ignoring trade rumors

Towns has averaged 26.5 points and 11.7 points over 23 games this season in Minnesota, his fifth in the league since the Timberwolves used the No. 1 overall draft pick on him in 2015.

He is in the first year of a massive five-year, $158 million dollar deal with Minnesota, too.

In theory, the former Kentucky standout isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Yet rumors have swirled in recent weeks that teams across the league are monitoring his status in Minnesota, wondering if he’s happy being on a team that has made the postseason just once in the past 15 seasons and is currently near the bottom of the Western Conference standings once again.

The 24-year-old, however, seems unbothered by those rumors. And if he’s ever unhappy, Towns said he wouldn’t take care of that situation externally.

“I think you’ve been around me long enough to know I don’t go for all the s--t,” Towns said, via Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “I just do my job, go home and I know what the real story is. There’s a reason those stories are made because people need to sell papers, sell links and clicks, whatever the case may be.

“I’m here to be a Minnesota Timberwolf. Very fortunate I have a head coach like Ryan, a president and friend like [Gersson Rosas]. I’m not worried about all that nonsense. Whatever we have to deal with in house, we’ll deal with in house, but this ain’t the circus like it used to be. This is something that’s going to be done as a family. If we have a problem or anything, we’ll deal with it internally. We don’t have any external forces here adding anything.”

Despite his big night, Karl-Anthony Towns' return wasn't enough to lead the Timberwolves past the Pacers. (AP/Michael Conroy)

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