Karl-Anthony Towns returning for Timberwolves against Hawks Friday night

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JANUARY 1: Karl-Anthony Towns #32 of the Minnesota Timberwolves reacts against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on January 1, 2024 in New York City. The Knicks defeated the Timberwolves 112-106. (Photo by Mitchell Lef (Getty Images)

The Minnesota Timberwolves host the Atlanta Hawks Friday night in their penultimate game of the regular season, and they should get one of their best players back on the floor.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Karl-Anthony Towns is expected to play Friday night against the Hawks at Target Center. Towns has missed 17 games since suffering a torn meniscus in his left knee on March 4. He had surgery the following week, opting for a faster repair that would allow him to return for the playoffs, with the Timberwolves having their best regular season in 20 years.

In late April, the Timberwolves got their 50th win for the first time since the 2003-04 team, led by Kevin Garnett, that reached the Western Conference Finals. Friday’s return gives Towns two games, plus practice next week, to get ready for the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. Towns was an All-Star this season and, in 60 games, is averaging 22.1 points, 8.4 rebounds and three assists per game. He’s 42.3% from the perimeter.

The Timberwolves have gone 11-6 in his absence. There’s still an outside shot Minnesota could get the No. 1 seed in the West. They have to beat the Hawks on Friday and the Phoenix Suns on Sunday and get a loss from Denver and Oklahoma City in one of their final two games. The more likely scenario is getting the No. 2 or No. 3 seed. If they get the second seed, they’ll have to wait until the NBA’s Play-In series concludes to determine who the No. 7 seed would be.

A pair of wins to end the regular season would give the Timberwolves a 57-25 record, the second-best mark in franchise history.