CHARLOTTE – Karl-Anthony Towns sat by his locker Thursday night in an authentic NBA All-Star jacket from the 1991 game in Charlotte.
But that white nylon coat, trimmed in red and blue, wasn’t all he was wearing after the Timberwolves’ fifth straight loss.
“Tonight was on me,” said Towns, who recorded his sixth straight double-double in the Wolves’ 113-106 loss to the Hornets. “I chalk this one up on myself.”
Despite pairing 21 points with 16 rebounds and also dishing out six assists, Towns wasn’t pleased with his performance, specifically with how he dealt with the Hornets’ defensive strategy any time he touched the ball.
“They’re guarding me different and giving me a lot of respect, so I’ve got to go out there and make plays,” he said.
Towns’ double-double was his 48th of the season. In the third quarter, he passed Kevin Love to take over fourth place on the Wolves’ all-time scoring list. At 23 years, 126 days, he’s the fifth-youngest player in NBA history to score 7,000 points.
Still Charlotte threw multiple defenders his way all night, and Towns had decisions to make with the ball in his hands.
It’s something that figures to be the norm going forward, especially now.
The Wolves entered Thursday’s game with a roster depleted by injuries, but they did gain some closure, announcing earlier in the day that forward Robert Covington (knee) and guards Derrick Rose (elbow) and Jeff Teague (foot) are expected to miss the remainder of the season. Additionally, Luol Deng was out (sore Achilles’ tendon), and Taj Gibson missed the game as well after leaving Tuesday’s contest against Golden State with a left calf strain.
With so many weapons out, Towns is attracting even more attention defensively.
“That is something that we expect from the level that Karl has played at,” said interim head coach Ryan Saunders. “We are going to continue to get better as a team. We will learn from that in terms of getting help in areas and also making plays out of there, too.”
The Wolves (32-40) were in it for three quarters against the Hornets, who had lost four of their previous five games. Charlotte (32-39) led 54-51 at the half and maintained its three-point lead after three quarters. Then the Hornets opened the fourth on an 11-3 run to take control.
Kemba Walker’s layup with 7:02 remaining made it 96-86 and provided the first double-digit lead of the night for either team. Walker finished with a game-high 31 and scored 10 in the fourth to help the Hornets put the game out of reach.
“Offensively, they put pressure on us,” said Saunders. “Kemba puts teams in binds, especially in pick-and-rolls and dribble hand-offs … and they had some guys make shots as well.”
Andrew Wiggins added 20 points for the Wolves, but he said they needed to shore up their defense to close out games.
“We did some things right,” said Wiggins. “Obviously, we didn’t do the important things right because they still won the game. I feel like we played good defense in the first half. In the second half, we kind of let go a little bit.”
Saunders spoke before the game about the opportunity for other players to step up in their teammates’ absence. He liked what he saw from Wiggins.
“Yeah, I did,” he said. “Twenty points, he was aggressive getting to the basket.”
The Wolves led by as many as eight (23-15) in the first quarter but struggled at the foul line all night (18-of-29).
Next up is a game at Memphis on Saturday, as the Wolves seek their first win since March 10.