Published On: Fri, Apr 20th, 2018

More bite: Timberwolves' usage of Towns must change

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Entering their first postseason in 14 years, it’s not as though Minnesotans expected the Timberwolves to topple the Houston Rockets in Round 1. However, with their hometown team down 2-0, the excitement of being in the playoffs has been overshadowed by the lack of production from Karl-Anthony Towns.

Towns played in his first-ever All-Star Game this season, averaging 21.3 points and 12.3 rebounds per game while shooting a career-high 42.1 percent from three. Unfortunately, the early results of his postseason play have painted a different picture:

1 40 8 3-9 0-2 2-4 12 2
2 24 5 2-9 1-3 0-2 10

Much of the credit for Towns’ downfall has to go to Clint Capela. The Rockets center has dominated their matchup, averaging 16 points and 14 boards while scoring on 14-of-21 shot attempts. On 78 offensive possessions against Capela, Towns has scored a combined seven points.

Towns’ scoring drought is owed in large part to the team’s decision – conscious or not – to allow backup guards Derrick Rose and Jamal Crawford to eat up higher usage rates than the All-Star tandem of Towns and Jimmy Butler in the postseason.

Player Off Rtg Def Rtg USG% EFG% 
D. Rose 95.5 110.5 28.5 52.2
J. Teague 93.6 115.3 26.9 46.9
J. Crawford 94.2 108.3 18.7 42.5
J. Butler 104.1 107.2 17.5 50.0
K. Towns 97.7 112.4 15.9 30.6

After losing the first game of the series, head coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters that Towns has “to be more active.” However, the tape consistently shows Towns hustling for looks on offense while his teammates fail to take advantage of his size and skill set. Minnesota’s guards are settling for contested jump shots instead of feeding Towns in the post or utilizing him in pick-and-pops.

Missed opportunities

Early in Game 1, Towns ran a dribble handoff with Andrew Wiggins and found himself in a mismatch against James Harden, with plenty of room between him and the basket.

Towns ended up in the weak-side corner after Wiggins called for an isolation against Capela, which eventually led to a pass to Jeff Teague, who missed a contested mid-range jumper from the free-throw line as the shot clock expired.

In another instance, after running a pick-and-pop with Rose, Towns found that Eric Gordon had switched onto him at the top of the arc. This sequence gave the Timberwolves an opportunity to run a play with Towns as the primary option.

Towns made his way to the post after passing the ball to Crawford at the top of the arc. Towns, carrying a significant size advantage over Gordon, positioned himself and called for the ball with no other defender in the area.

The play ended with Crawford taking a contested shot with six seconds remaining on the shot clock. The opportunity to work Towns into the offense was available but, once again, was ignored.

Here, Rose received a pass from Teague on the wing with Taj Gibson 35 feet from the basket. Rose and Gibson played hot potato before the former MVP ended up with the ball at the top of the arc.

Towns then set a pick for Rose and popped behind the 3-point line.

Again, the team settled for a long two by a below-average shooter, with 11 seconds left on the shot clock. Butler was rendered useless, and Towns was left watching Rose’s shot miss from 30 feet, despite another mismatch.

It’s fair to expect Minnesota will make significant adjustments to find more opportunities for Towns in Game 3, regardless of how well Capela has defended him. It’s inexplicable that Rose – one of the least-efficient players in the NBA – has taken five more shots than Towns in 23 fewer minutes. For Minnesota to recover in the series and make Houston sweat, Towns needs to be the focal point on offense.

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