Wolves' Karl-Anthony Towns held to eight points in playoff debut

HOUSTON — Minnesota Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau called for All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns to play with more energy after Towns was an offensive afterthought in his playoff debut.

Towns scored eight points on 3-of-9 shooting in the Timberwolves’ 104-101 loss to the Houston Rockets in Sunday’s Game 1. Thibodeau noted that the Rockets’ strategy of switching and double-teaming Towns was effective, but he put much of the onus for the off night on the 22-year-old big man’s shoulders.

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“He’s got to be more active,” Thibodeau said.

Towns was held to fewer than eight points only twice in the regular season, when he averaged 21.3 points per game. He attempted nine or fewer field goals in 11 games, an alarming number for a 7-footer with Towns’ wide array of skills, capable of scoring as a post-up player, as a spot-up shooter and off the dribble.

Thibodeau especially emphasized getting out in transition when asked how Towns should be more active against a Rockets’ defensive scheme that makes him a focal point.

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“You run the floor,” Thibodeau said. “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.”

There were several possessions on Sunday when Towns did not receive the ball despite posting up Rockets guards such as Eric Gordon and Chris Paul on switches. However, Towns didn’t complain about a lack of touches after the loss.

“I’ve got to be better on both sides of the basketball,” said Towns, who had 12 rebounds and played a team-high 40 minutes. “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.”

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Rockets center Clint Capela’s strong performance stood in stark contrast to Towns’ in the series opener. Capela scored a playoff-career-high 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting — doing some of his damage finishing on the fast break — grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked three shots.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Capela became the first player to record 20 points and 10 rebounds in either half of a playoff game since Kevin Durant on May 15, 2014.

“He’s terrific. He’s really good,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “I think he’s probably undervalued — probably won’t be this summer when he gets paid, but right now he is. People sleep on him a little bit, but he’s one of the better centers in the league.”

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