The Knicks had a great first half. The Wolves had a great second half.
There were mistakes throughout the game from both teams, many of them coming from the youth that makes up much of each of these teams. There were bad shots, silly turnovers, and (especially early, mostly from the Wolves) over-anxiousness. Ultimately, the Knicks were able to hold onto the lead, but tonight’s game became very fun as the night went on.
Tonight was slated as a Towns vs. Porzingis matchup, and we got a lot of that all night. In a lot of ways, the players’ differences were showcased pretty clearly.
First off, Kristaps Porzingis is going to be a really, really good player. Past his 7 blocks was the way he instilled fear into the Wolves for most of the game. His presence on the interior made it terrifying for the Wolves to enter the lane. In the 4th the Wolves were able to get past it and get some shots on Zinger, but he has the potential to be a real interior defensive presence. There were moments tonight, especially in the first half, where he made scoring at the rim seem impossible. This play in particular stuck out for me.
On offense, he didn’t shoot well tonight. Early in his career, it’s entirely possible that he’ll be streaky. If you’ve seen his shooting form, though, there aren’t too many that are worried about that being a persistent issue. He needs to work on his shot selection, but his range is insane, and shot selection is much easier to work with And the interior skill is probably coming. He’s a killer on the offensive glass and has decent footwork for 7’3. How much fun is it that a guy that tall can rise like this?
But right now, Towns is a more complete player. He takes smarter shots, hits a higher percentage of them, and has an overall better feel for the game. Maybe it’s bias and maybe it’s unfair, but thus far, it seems apparent that Towns’ grasp of the game puts him in a class by himself among rookies.
He didn’t have a block tonight, but he has proven his worth on defense in the past. He’s, if nothing else, a high-impact player on that end, and had moments tonight, on both ends. Even when the game seemed lost.
Tonight featured a fun game overall, but it was Porzingis’ defense (and nobody guarding Aaron Afflalo for a stretch) made it easy for the Knicks to get the first half lead up to 20. He landed a few early blocks on a driving Andrew Wiggins, and helped get Towns off to a 2-6 start. They also got good production from Langston Galloway and Lance Thomas, who have impressed a lot in New York over most of this year.
It was a coming-home party for Towns, and it showed early on. He was taking a shot on virtually every touch the first 3 minutes of the game, and clearly wanted to impress the section of family that was at the game.
The Wolves fell short, yes, but it wasn’t until the second half where Towns realy calmed downand the Wolves got going.
But first of all, I’d feel silly if I didn’t mention the insanity Ricky Rubio brought tonight. Past his near quadruple-double, he was the reason the first half didn’t get worse than it did (they were up by over 20 at points in the first half).
But as Rubio dominated the game without scoring, the youngsters took advantage of the opportunities Ricky gave them.
After Wiggins 1-7 start, he finished the game hitting on 7 of his last 15 shots, and went 7-7 from the free throw line. Instead of settling from mid-range, he was getting to the lane. And this time, he wasn’t letting Porzingis get to him.
Zach LaVine was doing stuff, too. He finished the game 9-20 with a lot of his production coming in the Wolves’ comeback efforts, and a lot of it coming while working with Ricky Rubio off the ball.
Yes, it was a game the Knicks won, in large part due to the contributions from multi-year vets Carmelo Anthony and Aaron Afflalo (and Ricky Rubio for the Wolves). This much is obvious.
But what we can say about tonight’s game is the matchup, Towns vs Porzingis (or even Wolves young core vs Knicks young core) delivered as advertised. We saw fun from the pair of bigs, Wiggins, LaVine and Galloway. These teams were beyond awful last year, and completely incapable of putting forth a fun game like we saw tonight. In that respect, we should all feel thankful.