WASHINGTON – The Timberwolves already had enough problems in this underwhelming start to the season before Karl-Anthony Towns crumpled to the floor because of a right calf strain in the third quarter of their 142-127 loss to the Wizards.
Towns put a scare into the franchise when he suffered the non-contact injury as he was attempting to get back on defense with 5 minutes, 25 seconds remaining in the third. He fell, grabbed the back of his leg and stayed on the ground until center Rudy Gobert and head athletic trainer Gregg Farnam helped him up and to the locker room. He couldn't put weight on his right leg.
For a while, the possibility of a season-ending injury to one of Minnesota's franchise cornerstones loomed over this 10-11 squad that lost its third straight game. Then around the start of the fourth quarter, the team announced the initial diagnosis of a right calf strain.
"Hopefully that's where it comes down," coach Chris Finch said.
There is currently no timetable for Towns' return. He is set to undergo further evaluation Tuesday, Finch said.
"Obviously super concerned about that," Finch said. "Big blow for us."
The team is optimistic Towns avoided a serious, long-term injury. Players seemed relieved afterward that the injury wasn't worse than the initial diagnosis. Those who spoke to the media afterward didn't see Towns fall initially, but they saw a replay of the moment after the game. Towns was not made available to the media.
"That video was scary," forward Kyle Anderson said. "Just him looking back as if someone was behind him and hit him, that's pretty scary. That's never cool. So I'm happy it's more on the lesser side."
Added guard Anthony Edwards: "I was like, damn. I ain't know what happened because nobody was around. ... I thought it was a cramp and he'll be back out here in two or three minutes. But big fella gonna be all right."
Just when that will be is the next question. The Wolves were already trying to figure out how to make their pairing of Towns and Gobert work, and as a team, the Wolves have struggled to find their footing. Losing Towns for a significant amount of time would hamper their development.
As Monday again displayed, the Wolves are very much a work in progress. The game followed a similar script to Sunday's blowout loss to Golden State — the Wolves' opponent raced out to a huge lead, too much of one for the Wolves to overcome despite a few runs.
Their porous defense allowed Washington to shoot 57 percent as the Wizards opened up a 27-point lead in the second quarter. Kristaps Porzingis scored 41 points on 12-for-18 shooting. He was also 11-for-11 on free throws.
Finch again pointed to a lack of ball containment as the main area of concern on the defensive end, and it's puzzling the Wolves have lost three straight after one of their best performances Wednesday against Indiana.
"It's super frustrating. ... Not really knowing what team is going to show up from night to night," Finch said. "I just told our guys, five days ago we played our best basketball of the season, and we feel like we're a million miles away from that."
The Wolves shot 50% but just 26%from three-point range. Edwards led them with 29 points while Jaylen Nowell had 23 off the bench. Towns had eight points and two rebounds.
"KAT's tough," Nowell said. "When he went down, I had faith that he was good. It was great that he avoided serious injury. Hopefully he can get back out there as soon as possible because we do need him."
But the Wolves may have to get by without him for at least some amount of time.