The Minnesota Timberwolves played host to the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday. A weekend matinee game pinned two of the top Western Conference teams against each other. Prior to Sunday, the Wolves had previously dominated the Clippers this season. With a chance to move to 3-0 in the season series, a win would have been huge for Minnesota's confidence and playoff seeding. Karl-Anthony Towns and Co. appeared ready to deliver as they jumped all over the older LA side to start the game. Despite a double-digit lead in the first quarter, however, they were unable to hold on.

The second quarter began with a big run for the Clippers who turned a large deficit into a one-point lead before a Chris Finch timeout. From that point on, both teams threw defensive haymakers with a 1980s-styled game. Ultimately, the Clippers outlasted the Timberwolves and won 89-88. Minnesota's defense stood tall as it usually does. However on the flip side of the coin, the offense gave another let-down performance.

In a bit of a silver lining, though, Towns led the Timberwolves in assists with eight. Let’s breakdown why KAT’s passing stood out as one of the few offensive positives for Minnesota in the loss.

Karl-Anthony Towns’ passing talent was on full display

The greatest advantage Minnesota found on Sunday was from playing through their star big man. KAT flirted with a triple-double, scoring 18 points to go along with nine rebounds and an impressive eight assists. With the Wolves looking to take advantage of the Clippers’ lack of size, Towns stood as the go-to post-up option. When Towns catches the ball, his size and talent forced the Clippers into early rotations.

Looking to double KAT at times, the Clippers' philosophy of shrinking the floor allowed the Wolves to get clean looks from behind the arc.

Towns' size allows him to comfortably see over a defense and zip passes like the crosscourt dime above. Even outside of standard post-ups, Towns ability as a playmaker was on full display. One of his eight assists came on a tremendous lob to fellow big man Rudy Gobert.

Due to his passing prowess, KAT was a Wolves' best +14 in the narrow loss. Postgame, ClutchPoints asked Clippers coach Ty Lue about the challenges that Towns presents as a mismatch.

“I think just showing different looks. We double-teamed early to try to keep him off balance. He made some good passes, they made some threes,” Lue said before expanding on the difficulty of facing talented players like Towns, noting that “playing these great players, you show a steady diet of the same thing, it’s gonna be a tough night.”

Karl-Anthony Towns is a scoring mismatch

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards (5) and center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) celebrate against the Memphis Grizzlies in the fourth quarter at Target Center.
Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

To Ty Lue’s credit, the Clippers did try handling Karl-Anthony Towns in quite a few ways. Prior to doubling KAT in the post, the Clippers first tried to guard him one in one. This strategy was rendered ineffective quickly. Leveraging his size to his advantage, Towns got active early. Scoring 12 of his 18 points in the first quarter, the Wolves’ big jumped out to a hot five for five start from the field.

With the Clippers willing to switch most screens, Minnesota was able to effectively target specific matchups early. Terance Mann stands out as a target the Wolves like to have matched up on their multi-time All-Star.

Towns’ combination of size and touch make him a near impossible cover for somebody of Mann’s stature. Minnesota effectively isolated him in the middle of the floor where it’s much more difficult to double-team. Other elite centers around the league like Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid make a living by working from the nail. With Towns’ talent-level, this is something Finch and the Wolves need to lean into more.

Postgame, ClutchPoints asked Clippers star Paul George about the difficulty of defending Towns and the Clippers’ game planning for him.

“They got personnel that you have to lock in on. With Ant, with Karl, you put a lot of attention on that. Then Rudy is seven-foot-whatever standing at the rim so that causes a threat as well. Going into a game like this, you gotta be prepared for a lot.”

While Towns’ took advantage of his opportunities early as a scorer and a passer, the Clippers got the last laugh. Minnesota’s up-and-down offense struggled mightily on Sunday. Failing to score a single fast break point, the Clippers’ transition defense played a huge role in containing Minnesota around Towns.