WASHINGTON — Even before Karl-Anthony Towns hit the ground with a thud late in the Timberwolves' 115-107 loss to the Wizards, everyone at Capital One Arena and probably Towns himself knew the fall was going to hurt.
Towns, who had a game high 34 points, had lost his grip on the rim after a dunk with 2 minutes, 16 seconds remaining and landed hard on his posterior. He walked to the bench and then to the tunnel in obvious pain.
But as he walked and sat down gingerly for his postgame media session, Towns calmed a nervous fanbase and said he was feeling OK, all things considered.
"I feel better than I thought I was going to feel," Towns said. "I was in extreme pain for sure. … X-Rays were negative and just got to have to deal with it."
Towns said he wasn't sure if he'd be able to play Friday against Brooklyn — he would see how he feels Thursday — but it at least appears the Wolves will have Towns for the long haul as they enter one of the toughest stretches of their schedule. Every team they face in December is playing .500 or above entering the month. To get through this month with their heads above water they can't backslide defensively — and have to hope Towns' fall on his backside won't cost him much, if any, time away from the lineup.
With his 34 points, Towns passed Kevin Garnett for most 30-point plus performances in franchise history, but the Wolves' defense betrayed them.
The Wolves' next film session will feature so many dunks from Montrezl Harrell they will wonder if they're watching the same clip over and over. Anthony Edwards expressed disbelief as he looked at the boxscore and saw Harrell's stats: 27 points on 11 of 12 shooting. The Wizards had 68 points in the paint.
The Wolves had so much focus on Bradley Beal (19 points) at times, that they let the roll man, or the person who sets the screen and then rolls to the rim, slip too often. Harrell had a field day.
Coach Chris Finch said the Wolves' low-man defensive concept — when a weak side helper near the baseline helps cover the rim, failed them. So Finch changed it up. Nothing worked.
"We tried everything," Finch said. "We tried zone, we tried switching all kinds of stuff. We tried staying in coverage. We literally threw everything at them and we just couldn't figure it out. Roller got loose and that was pretty much the end of it for us."
It was really the end when Towns exited after his fall with the Wolves down 112-105.
Edwards, who was one of four Wolves on the injury report for flu-like symptoms or illness, had 25 points. D'Angelo Russell shot just 3 of 18 for 10 points.
Edwards and Vanderbilt (four points, 12 rebounds) said they were not completely well. Another teammate, Jaden McDaneils, didn't make the trip because of the illness.
"It's very difficult," Vanderbilt said. "My game is built off of energy, flying around and just causing chaos. Me not being at 100 percent, [I was] still trying to go out there and give everything I had, trying to bring that energy."
Vanderbilt said the Wolves were "a step slow" most of the night and Finch said that manifested in the way Washington got to more loose balls than the Wolves did.
"They deserved to win it because they basically beat us to the punch on most of the 50-50 stuff," Finch said.
These nights will happen in the NBA. But with the Wolves entering likely their toughest month on the schedule, they can't afford to have too many of these nights.