Timberwolves Should Be Embarrassed By How They Used Karl-Anthony Towns In Game 1

Bryan Brandom
(Photo: Getty Images)

Ahh the NBA playoffs, when coaches pull out all the stops, rotations shorten, and teams’ star players take over.

That is, unless you’re the Minnesota Timberwolves. Then, apparently, you take the ball out of your stars’ hands and force-feed a pair of washed-up gunners, including one who is on his fourth team in three seasons for a reason.

Despite playing just 24 minutes, Derrick Rose finished second on the squad in field-goal attempts, with 14, during the squad’s 104-101 defeat at the hands of the Houston Rockets on Sunday. Jamal Crawford was tied for third with 11.

Just look at this crap.

Karl-Anthony Towns, who proved a dominant force with Jimmy Butler injured late in the season, led the team with 40 minutes of floor time but took just nine shots, scoring eight points. Butler managed just 11 attempts and 13 points in 36 minutes.

The Rockets’ defensive game plan was clearly designed to keep Towns and Butler from doing their typical damage, and Minnesota played right into the trap.

“He’s got to be more active,” head coach Tom Thibodeau said of Towns after the Game 1 loss in the first round.

Thibs added: “You run the floor. Kick the ball out, repost, keep moving around, search it out, get to the offensive board. You’ve got to sprint around. You learn when teams are double-teaming you — that’s what you have to do. You have to make the right play. You also have to get to positions in which it’s difficult for them to double-team you. Transition’s a big part of that. You’ve got to run the floor.”

Towns agreed he could have been better.

“I’ve got to be better on both sides of the basketball,” the second-year big man said. “At the end of the day, I trust my teammates full-heartedly that when they get the ball that they can go out there and score every single time. We have such talented players that sometimes the game plan is that. I’ve got to be better all-around if I’m going to help my teammates out as much as possible.”

Still, perhaps Thibs and Towns should have made this diagnosis and addressed it, you know, during the game, rather than wait for a 1-0 series deficit.

With the team trailing 85-84 and 7:27 remaining, Thibs reinserted his All-Star center for the home stretch. Towns took just one more shot, and not as a result of his teammates’ passing him the rock or his coach’s instructing the team to do so — it came on an offensive rebound with 15 seconds left, the Timberwolves’ last bucket of the game.

Thibs is right that Towns should have been more aggressive in the post against defensive switches that saw him matched up with smaller players, but it’s the coach’s job to get everyone on the same page as soon as possible.

Twenty shot attempts from a playoff team’s top two offensive options is just inexcusable.