Karl-Anthony Towns’ shooting woes coming at worst possible time for Timberwolves

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DALLAS – Karl-Anthony Towns had seemingly bested his postseason demons through the first two rounds of this year’s playoffs.

Sure, there were a few offensive clunkers mixed in, but in general the all-star big man was great on defense – where he took on marquee matchups – and on the glass and delivered offensively when needed.

He helped slam the door on Phoenix in Game 4. He shot 51 percent from the floor and 39 percent from deep against Denver.

After his fair share of past playoff struggles, Towns had apparently found a comfort level on the sport’s biggest, brightest stages.

But the Western Conference Finals have told a different story. Through three games – all Wolves’ losses – Towns is shooting 28 percent from the field and 14 percent from 3-point range. His offensive struggles bottomed out in Game 3 on Sunday, when the big man went 0 for 8 from 3-point range.

Timberwolves coach Chris Finch admitted it was “hard to watch” Towns struggle at times Sunday.

“He had enough buckets here and there. Defensively, in the second half, I was really pleased with the way he played, rebounding pretty well,” Finch said. “But yeah, he’s struggling. There’s no doubt in that right now.”

Finch felt Towns was rushing his shots earlier in the series. He didn’t think that was the case Sunday. Which makes the results all the more inexplicable. One of the NBA’s premiere 3-point shooters missed the rim on multiple good looks from beyond the arc.

“He had a couple good looks and needed those to go down, particularly earlier in the game,” Finch said.

And Towns assumed they would.

“I feel every shot’s good. I’ve shot a lot of basketballs in my life. I’m the first one in the gym. I definitely am working. I’m shooting. Every time I’m shooting, it feels good,” Towns said. “I’m just having these very unfortunate bounces all the time. It’s annoying. The last game, first shot of the game goes in-out, in-out, in-out. This game, my first shot is a free throw and it goes in-out. I don’t mean to smile, but I’ve just got to laugh at it right now. It’s very disappointing.”

Towns said his confidence level remains “extremely high.” He noted he’s putting up “1,500 shots a day” – a fact the Inside the NBA crew vehemently disputed after Game 3.

Regardless, Towns has a large body of work upon which he can rely to know future shots will fall. Wolves forward Kyle Anderson agreed 3-point shots will go down for Towns. But there are certainly other ways he can get himself going in the meantime. That was evident in the third quarter on Sunday, when – after Dallas big Dereck Lively left the game due to injury – Towns started to go downhill aggressively in an effort to attack the rack.

“Put me in spots where I was getting the ball in the mid-post, Dallas action,” Towns said, “and I was utilizing that one-two step to the basket for my advantage.”

Perhaps more of that will be required until Towns regains his shooting touch. Because this much is apparent – if Towns can’t find ways to be an offensive contributor, it will be difficult for Minnesota to extend its season. There simply aren’t enough shooters nor offensive creators for Minnesota to survive these major lulls from its all-star big man.

Take the second half Sunday, for example. When Towns was 3 for 4 from the field with nine points in the third frame, the Wolves dropped 35 points in the quarter – its most impressive offensive segment of the series.

When Towns is rolling, it opens up the floor for everyone else – namely, Anthony Edwards.

But, in the fourth, Towns regressed again, going 0 for 4 from the field, and Minnesota scored just 20 points in the quarter en route to another crushing defeat. If Dallas doesn’t have to account for Towns on offense, the floor shrinks in Minnesota in short order.

Towns has shot below 35 percent from the floor in nine of his 30 career playoff games – Minnesota is 0-9 in those contests.

“I think KAT gotta just do a better job of maybe getting back to his old self, of finding himself around the basket more. Rim running, taking advantage of mismatches,” Anderson said. “He’s obviously a really good player, and he’s big time for us, so we need him to get going. So it’s our job to put him in the right position. … But I think if he gets back to rim running and catching the ball on the block and taking his time and going to finish, they got nothing for him. So we just gotta find him, put him in the right situations.”

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