The Minnesota Timberwolves defeated the New York Knickerbockers 118-108 Friday night, the team’s fourth victory in a row; their record now sits at 28-16 and they find themselves .5 games behind the San Antonio Spurs for the third seed in the Western Conference.
The game was defined by how it started and how it finished.
Knicks’ budding star Kristaps Porzingis was a defensive force out of the gates making things difficult for Karl-Anthony Towns and Taj Gibson. Enes Kanter, as he is wont to do, was a force on the glass, particularly the offensive variety, and around the hoop. The Knicks ended the opening frame 13-of-22 from the field, but that doesn’t quite do justice to how hot they were.
The Wolves, on the other hand, started cold. The shot selection was poor and the offensive chemistry more of a solid state than a fluid. Jimmy Butler, who has played himself into the MVP discussion with his performance over the last month and a half, was nearly invisible, except for when he was getting caught indecisively in the air. New York led the turnover battle 4-3 (which is uncharacteristic of the Wolves) and the game 27-24 after one.
Jamal Crawford, in typical Jamal Crawford fashion, hit a few difficult and timely shots as the first quarter transitioned into the second, keeping the Wolves close, and Tyus Jones, who played a paltry 15 minutes, connected on a few difficult layups.
But then Michael Beasley happened… (well, and also Courtney Lee, but let’s focus on Super Cool Beas, shall we?). Beasley absolutelyÂ torched Gorgui Dieng, putting up 11 points in six minutes. Everything went in: long twos, difficult drives, if Beasley put it up, it went in (and it was awesome).
But slowly the narrative of the game began to shift. The Knicks started missing shots, the Wolves started making some, and Karl-Anthony Towns began to take over. Led by Towns, the Wolves went on a 20-4 run between the end of the third and start of the fourth quarters. New York seemingly made it a game towards the end of the third when they took a series of one-point leads, but the Wolves put this one away by blowing the doors off the Knicks in the fourth.
Jarrett Jack led the Knicks in scoring, finishing with 18 points and eight assists. Porzingis scored 17 points on 19 shots and added 10 rebounds. Tim Hardaway Jr., in his first game back after recovering from a stress reaction in his lower leg, and Kanter each contributed 16 points each (Kanter also had 12 boards).
Eight of the nine Wolves’ players scored in double-digits tonight. Jones was the lone Wolf to not; he finished with seven points, two rebounds, and four assists. Nemanja Bjelica was a perfect 4-of-4 from the field, including 2-of-2 from three, in 11 minutes. Bjelica, Dieng, and Crawford all finished with 10 points.
Taj Gibson (17 points, six rebounds, and two assists) continued his impactful play on both ends of the court, helping to slow Porzingis and Beasley after his hot start. Andrew Wiggins put up 16 points (unfortunately on 20 shots, though he missed a number of layups he typically makes), six rebounds, two assists, two steals, and a block. Jimmy Butler put up a mortal 13 points, four rebounds, and two assists, but also did this when the game was already out of reach:
Jimmy Butler isn't giving up ANYTHING free, chases down Porzingis on a fast break and strips himup 12 with 40 secs left pic.twitter.com/cMr5rfPT3G
— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) January 13, 2018
Towns, who is familiar with putting up absurd numbers in games (especially so against the likes of Porzingis and Nikola Jokic), did so again, finishing with 23 points, 15 rebounds, nine assists, and one (timely and impactful) block in 40 minutes. After tonight, Towns has career averages of 27.8 points, 12.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 2.0 blocks in five career games against Porzingis.
In all, it was yet another encouraging showing from the Wolves. In years past the Wolves would’ve likely folded after getting off to a slow start while the opponent came out on fire or after the Knicks retook the lead at the end of the third quarter. But this Wolves’ team continues to prove to be different. And it can’t be overstated how refreshing that is.
The Wolves are next in action on Sunday against the Portland Trailblazers (22-20, 5th seed in the West). Tip is set for 8 pm.
- Andrew Wiggins was 1-of-4 from beyond the arc tonight. He’s now made a three in 12 consecutive games.
- Jeff Teague looked to be moving around well, as evidenced by his eight assists, four rebounds, and four steals, but his shot continued to look awfully flat. He finished 3-of-11 in 33 minutes. His shot will come around eventually, but part of the rehab process is relearning to trust the body part that failed you. Whether conscious or not, it looks like Teague doesn’t quite trust his knee quite yet.
- As of writing, the Wolves now boast the league’s 4h-ranked offense (110.4 ortg), 17th-ranked defense (106.4 drtg), and 5th-ranked net rating (+4.0), according to NBA.com/stats.
- Please enjoy a video of Tom Thibodeau laughing
— Josh Whitcomb (@Whitcomb) January 13, 2018