HOUSTON — One name that quickly comes to mind among the NBA’s elite centers is Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns, who is averaging nearly 25 points and 10 rebounds per game this season.
He is powerful and bullish in the post area, and when he can’t have his way in the paint, the 6-foot-11 Towns moves out to the 3-point line — where he has made 41.0% of the shots he has taken this season. It’s also worth remembering that he won the 3-point contest in February during the league’s 2022 All-Star Weekend in Cleveland.
In other words, Towns is a walking mismatch for most centers that he is matched up against. The Houston Rockets were no different in the first half of Sunday’s home game versus the Timberwolves, as they sent numerous double teams to force the ball out of his hands.
Their plan was somewhat effective, as Towns finished with 13 first-half points. However, the Timberwolves shot 66% from the field as a team in taking an 80-68 lead into halftime at Toyota Center..
During the intermission, one Rockets player spoke up about the ineffectiveness of doubling Towns in the post and wanted the defensive strategy scrapped so that he could play him straight up. That player was rookie center Alperen Sengun.
Rockets head coach Stephen Silas heard his rookie loud and clear, and in the fourth quarter, he allowed Sengun to defend Towns straight-up, and without any help-side defender.
“We stopped doubling Towns quite as much,” said Silas. “Alpi (Sengun) said, ‘I want to guard him,’ and I said ‘Okay, you want him, you got him.’ And he did a pretty good job on him.”
Houston erased a 27-point lead by Minnesota in the second half before losing by a final margin of 139-132. The Rockets’ plan of defending the man in front of them worked well, as they held the Timberwolves to 23 points in the final period after giving up 116 through three quarters.
“I was feeling good about that,” said Sengun, who used his physicality to battle with Towns in the post. “I trust myself, and when the double team came, they were finding the open guy. That’s why I felt confident. I believe that I can defend by myself. I did (a) good job.”
It was Sengun’s first time in the lineup after missing two games with hamstring soreness. The 19-year-old finished with 14 points and 15 rebounds, which was his fourth double-double of the season.
“I did my best and I am happy to be back,” Sengun said postgame. “I am happy that I am back on the court. We have a few games left in the season, and I am trying to do my best to end the season well.”
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“I believe that I can defend by myself,” said Rockets reserve center Alperen Sengun when asked about the conversation he had with head coach Stephen Silas when it came to defending Timberwolves Karl-Anthony Towns in the second half of the game on Sunday. #Rockets pic.twitter.com/RG18pPjkKX
— #SARGE (@BigSargeSportz) April 4, 2022
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Source: Yahoo Sports