Timberwolves young star Karl-Anthony Towns called Thursday’s 109-103 loss to Indiana at Target Center a “hard night” during which his team seemingly played from behind right from the start.
Towns only knew the half of it.
He knew the part in which his Wolves trailed by seven before first quarter’s end and by 11 points with just 3:41 left before they battled within three points with 16 seconds left but didn’t get any closer.
He didn’t know the part about the team’s mascot putting his father on the injured list during a timeout stunt gone wrong until he saw his dad hobbling down an arena corridor toward him on crutches afterward.
“What did Crunch do to you?” Towns asked his father incredulously.
Turns out Karl Sr. got clipped on the aisle by Crunch’s sled as the furry one came barreling down arena steps on his sled as part of a regular bit featured during timeouts for years and years.
Both ways, you can call it a hard night after Towns’ father stayed to the very end, his iced leg propped up until the crutches came.
Before it was all over, the Wolves knew well why the NBA named Indiana’s Paul George an Eastern Conference All-Star Game reserve not long before the game’s opening tip. His 32-point, five-assist, four-rebound performance included 27 points scored in the first three quarters.
George is headed next month to his fourth All-Star Game and his second consecutive, less than three years after he horrifically broke his leg during a Team USA summer scrimmage that Thibodeau coached.
“To overcome the way he has, I think he’s better now than he was then,” Thibodeau said. “And I thought he was great then. To get past that, I know he went through a lot.”
Before Thursday’s game was all over, they also knew well it’s difficult playing from behind on a night when Thibodeau used “low energy” and “slow” to describe his team, even if they almost rescued themselves with a flurry of four three-pointers late in the game.
“It’s too late to turn on the gas, five minutes left in the game,” Towns said. “It makes it very hard to win a game. We almost pulled it off, but almost isn’t good enough.”
They might have pulled it off had the Pacers not made a couple of desperate three-pointers near the end of the 24-second shot clock down the stretch, one by Jeff Teague with 1:55 left and the other C.J. Miles’ dagger with 47 seconds left after the Wolves had pulled within five points.
Still, when Wiggins scored on a driving layup with 15 seconds left the Wolves were within 106-103. When Wiggins pushed Teague to the right sideline as Teague dribbled the ball upcourt, Wiggins either fouled Teague or forced him over the sideline.
There was no whistle either way and Teague continued on, until he fed Myles Turner for an alley-oop dunk and a 108-103 lead with six seconds left.
“Yeah,” Andrew Wiggins said, “he took about five steps out of bounds.”
Thibodeau didn’t like his team’s lethargic start, its uncommon 44-34 rebounding deficit or the loose balls it allowed the Pacers’ to turn into those two three-pointers.
“I did like the fight at the end,” he said. “To be down 10 and then you’ve got to find a way to claw back. Fifteen seconds to go, I thought he [Teague] was out of bounds. Then it was down three and a chance to tie.”
Instead, it was a five-point game and it was all over.