MINNEAPOLIS — The Knicks are close to being whole again with Tim Hardaway Jr. returning to the lineup Friday following a 20-game absence. Now, they just need to get Kristaps Porzingis back to being the player he was in October and November.
Porzingis couldn’t keep pace with Karl-Anthony Towns, the top overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, who came within one assist of recording a triple-double in the Timberwolves’ 118-108 victory over the Knicks.
The win improved Minnesota’s record to 28-16 and was Tom Thibodeau’s first win over the Knicks since becoming Wolves head coach prior to last season. Thibodeau served as a Knicks assistant coach under Jeff Van Gundy when they reached the NBA Finals in 1999.
Towns finished with 23 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists. His teammates were trying to get him a triple double but on the Wolves’ final possession Jeff Teague missed a jumper that would have been Towns’ 10th assist.
All five Minnesota starters scored in double figures including Jimmy Butler, who scored 13. Taj Gibson added 17 and was also responsible for harassing Porzingis, who scored 17 points on 6-for-19 shooting. Porzingis also grabbed 10 rebounds as the Knicks fell to 19-23. They’ve lost nine of their last 11.
An offensive-minded lineup to begin the fourth quarter backfired against the Knicks.
Hardaway, who hadn’t played since late November due to a stress injury in his left leg, scored 16 off the bench in 25 minutes. The Knicks had seven players score in double figures including point guard Jarrett Jack, who scored 18. Enes Kanter added 16 points and 12 rebounds.
Michael Beasley’s minutes could be affected by Hardaway’s return, so he is making the most of the time he gets. In the first half, Beasley scored 11 points in just under six minutes as the Knicks went into the locker room leading 57-55.
The Timberwolves came out flat and struggled defensively as the Knicks shot 61 percent. Minnesota was due for an upset loss following three straight home blowouts against New Orleans, Cleveland and Oklahoma City.
Neither team had much of an edge defensively in the first half as the Wolves attempted three free throws while the Knicks failed to take a first-half free throw for the first time since 2003. In fact, the Knicks didn’t go to the free throw line until there was 1:58 left in the third quarter. By then, Minnesota had attempted 12 free throws.
Karl-Anthony Towns finished an assist shy of a triple-double for Minnesota.
(Jesse Johnson/USA TODAY Sports)
The Knicks had fallen behind by eight, but with Hardaway, Beasley and Kyle O’Quinn on the floor, the Knicks mounted a comeback and were down 87-86 entering the fourth.
Hornacek went with an offensive lineup to open the fourth with Beasley and Porzingis on the court and the move backfired as Minnesota, with four back-ups and Towns on the floor, opened up a 106-92 lead with 6:25 remaining. Nemanja Bjelica provided a huge lift by knocking down a pair of three-pointers with Beasley providing little resistance.
Jamal Crawford’s three-pointer — he was fouled on the play but missed the free throw — extended Minnesota’s lead to 19 but the Knicks rallied to within 113-102 with 2:43 to play.
Source: Ny Daily News