HOUSTON — All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns, who was held to single-digit scoring in the first two playoff games of his career, dismissed the thought of feeling pressure to prove himself in the postseason.
“I just go out here and I just try to find ways to win,” Towns said after scoring only five points as his Minnesota Timberwolves dropped to a 2-0 series deficit with a 102-82 loss Wednesday night to the Rockets. “I’m not looking for statistics and all that hype and glory and all that B.S. that doesn’t matter. I’m here for wins and dubs — whatever I’ve got to do to win the game.”
Towns, who scored eight points in the Timberwolves’ Game 1 loss, is off to a historically poor postseason start for a player of his pedigree. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Towns’ 13 points through two playoff games is tied for the third fewest in NBA history for a player who averaged at least 20 points per game that season, ahead of only Paul Arizin in 1957 and Truck Robinson in 1979.
It’s the fewest points Towns has scored in consecutive games since the 15th and 16th games of his career, according to ESPN Stats & Information data. He had been held to single digits only twice in his past 150 regular-season games.
“You can’t be frustrated,” said Towns, who was 2-of-9 from the floor on Wednesday and is 5-of-18 in the series. “No time to be frustrated. Too much positive energy has to go the right way. There ain’t no time for negativity. There ain’t no time for frustration. There ain’t no time to hang your head down. We’ve got to move on and try to win the next game.”
Towns, who averaged 21.3 points per game during the regular season, is the primary focal point of the top-seeded Rockets’ defensive game plan. Houston frequently sends double-teams when Towns is able to catch the ball in the post, but he has struggled to establish position even when the Rockets switch a smaller defender onto him, particularly against James Harden and PJ Tucker.
Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau, as he did after Game 1, called for Towns to play with more energy.
“They’re doing a good job on him,” said Thibodeau, who also said he thought Minnesota tried to “force feed” Towns too much early in the game. “When you’re doing the things they’re doing, which is double-teaming him, he has to play with energy. He’s got to run the floor. He’s got to get it deep. He did that a couple of times, and it was good. You’ve got to beat them down the floor. You’ve got to be moving around, offensive rebound, kickout, repost. That’s an energy game, and that’s what we’ve got to do.”
That has been a frequent theme for Thibodeau throughout the season when Towns hasn’t played well or attempted many shots.
“He’s learning,” Thibodeau said. “Karl’s a very talented player. He’ll figure it out.”
Towns, on the other hand, has said repeatedly during this series that his lack of field goal attempts is due to following the game plan. Towns said “the flow of the game will dictate who shoots the ball.” When told that Thibodeau again cited his energy as an issue, Towns stressed the need for patience and positivity.
“I think we all have got to be better, including myself,” said Towns, who played only five minutes in the second half of Game 2 and did not attempt a shot after halftime. “We’ve just got to find ways. Like I said, there’s no time for negativity. There’s just time for positivity. We’ve got to find ways, come up with some tweaks and be ready for the next game.
“It’s a process. Rome isn’t built in one day. We’ve got to do our job now. They did their job. That’s the way basketball works. It’s a best-of-seven. It’s not a one-game elimination. This isn’t college.”
Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni downplayed the impact the Rockets’ defense has had on Towns’ struggles in the series.
“We just try to wear him out as much as we can, knowing that he could explode on Tuesday night,” D’Antoni said. “He’s an All-Star and great player. We’ve had some success so far, but we won’t think that’s us so much as just [Towns] having a bad game.”