ATLANTA – An old problem popped up in the Timberwolves' 134-122 loss to the Hawks: Karl-Anthony Towns appeared to let the officiating and his battle with an opponent, this time Atlanta's Onyeka Okongwu, get the best of him in the deciding third quarter.
Multiple times throughout the quarter Towns appeared in disbelief at the lack of calls in his favor.
Towns, who often says he doesn't like to get fined, didn't say much about the officiating postgame.
"Telling the truth in this league gets you fined, so I'm good," Towns said. "No comment."
Towns was especially upset after he was assessed a flagrant foul for kicking Okongwu and a technical for taunting him after it appeared Towns had closed the third quarter with a fadeaway jumper. Upon further review, officials said Towns kicked Okongwu, drawing the flagrant foul.
If Wednesday's game does anything moving forward for the Wolves, perhaps it will cause Towns' teammates to put pressure on him not to get overly rattled and have it affect his play.
Without being overly critical, guard D'Angelo Russell conveyed that message in his postgame comment.
"He likes that rah-rah [stuff], you know what I mean?" guard D'Angelo Russell said. "I realize he likes that, but it's a fine line between where it affects the game. I realized he liked that because every other game we might be dealing with it."
When Towns gets like that it can seem to have an effect on the rest of the team, and perhaps it contributed to Anthony Edwards' outburst a little more than halfway through the quarter when he picked up two quick technicals and was ejected.
Russell was then asked if there was a way, given his good relationship with Towns, if he could say something that might get the desired result from Towns when it came to jawing at officials.
"You can say as much as you want, but I can't do it for him," Russell said. "He's a smart guy. He knows what he's doing. He knows what he's saying. It might affect the team. It's a fine line of being solid when you need to be solid. There's a time to be rah-rah and rowdy with the refs and whoever you're battling against, but figuring out that time where it doesn't affect the team, too."
Coach Chris Finch said he sympathized with Towns' plight with the officials and said the Wolves have been trying to speak with the league about how to officiate Towns. Nights like Wednesday make it seem like there hasn't been much progress.
"His frustration is extremely palpable and justified at times," Finch said. "I watch him go in there nice and strong and just getting hit. He's gotta play through contact and try to finish. I can see where he gets frustrated with that stuff. We've talked to him. We have dialogue with the league at various levels to try to improve his relationship. It's something that's a work in progress for us."
There was a time last season when Towns said he just didn't have the energy to argue with officials the way he did in previous season, given that he had multiple family members die of COVID-19. But as the season went into the spring, the chippiness returned. Now there has been little noticeable difference in how Towns reacts to calls now and from years past.
"Just got to keep fighting through adversity regardless," Towns said.