Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau has talked constantly during the playoffs — heck, during the entire season — about the importance of trusting the pass.
It might be sinking in.
Against a Rockets team that has been creative in the way it switches on defense and brings extra defensive help, the Wolves struggled a bit while losing the first two games. In a Game 2 blowout loss in Houston on Wednesday night, the Wolves had only 15 assists and 16 turnovers while being held to 82 points.
What a difference a game makes.
In Saturday night’s 121-105 victory over the Rockets at Target Center, the Wolves had 29 assists and seven turnovers. Those 29 assists are tied for the second-most in the playoffs by a Wolves team. Four starters had three or more assists seven players had multiple assists. It is no coincidence the Wolves set all kinds of franchise playoff scoring records; their 35 points in the third and 34 in the fourth are their top two quarters. Their 121 points was a franchise record, too.
“Everyone wants to do well,’’ Thibodeau said. “When a team commits, brings a second defender and sometimes a third, you have to trust the pass, make the play. That creates easy offense for somebody else.”
Jeff Teague had eight assists, Jimmy Butler and Andrew Wiggins added five and Karl-Anthony Towns had three.
Towns, who had struggled to handle double-teams, twice passed outside for open three-pointers. Three of Wiggins’ five assists came after he drew a defender, then kicked it out for made three-pointers.
“It’s just sticking to the game plan,’’ Towns said. “We did a great job of it [Saturday] night.”
Can we talk?
Towns, usually willing to go into some depth while answering questions, was mum in response to a couple Sunday.
First, he was asked about the way he reacted to a couple of airball three-point misses by Houston star James Harden on Saturday, when Towns pretended to shadow his eyes and peer off into the distance as if looking for the ball.
“We talked about it,’’ Towns said with a shrug, saying no more.
Later, he was asked what he did differently while scoring 18 points with 16 rebounds in Game 3 after combining for 13 points in the first two games. “We had a conversation,’’ he said. “And I just went with the conversation.”
Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni wants his team to play in Monday’s Game 4 with the same urgency the Wolves played with in Game 3, the first playoff game at Target Center since 2004.
“This is the first time in a long time they had a playoff game,” D’Antoni said. “We were up 2-0. As human nature sets in a little bit, we didn’t match their crowd or their players’ intensity, desperation — not the proper amount of fear — and we have to do that. And we will.”
Out of step
So far, Rockets stars Harden and Chris Paul have alternated performances. Harden scored 44 points while Paul committed six turnovers in Game 1. Then in Game 2, Paul went for 27 points and eight assists while Harden shot 2-for-18 from the field.
Both were good, but not winners, in Game 3.
“We kind of trade off, right?” Harden asked Sunday. “I don’t know, we’ve got to get a rhythm. It’s not necessarily just me and Chris. We’re good enough to get our shot going, our rhythm going at any point of any game. We have to make sure we rally everyone around us and make sure they’re in good spirits and always confident in their shot. We’re good, we’re real good.”