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Knicks 120, Timberwolves 107: “And y’all thought Julius lost his three-point shot”

What was did we just watch? Is this real?

New York Knicks v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Coming off of a rough loss to the Boston Celtics, the Knicks traveled to Minnesota to take on the 5-5 Rudy Gobert-less Timberwolves. The first few minutes of the game saw both teams rely heavily on the three-point shot as Cam Reddish and Julius Randle both knocked down a pair of threes each for the Knicks and Kyle Anderson and Karl-Anthony Towns knocked down one each of their own. After the first timeout, the Knicks lead 12-11.

Randle (15 in the first quarter) then proceeded to knock down three more threes in the next few minutes of what should have been an emphatic run.

But like Saturday against Boston, they could not find a way to defend the outside shot, and the game remained a back-and-forth affair. It wasn’t until after the second timeout of the quarter that the Knicks were finally able to pull away a bit. With the second unit starting to come in for both teams, the Wolves started to miss a few shots while the Knicks remained incredibly hot from three. Before the end of the first quarter, RJ Barrett, Obi Toppin, and Immanuel Quickley also found a way to get in on the fun as they knocked down a combined four threes. The Knicks ended up finishing the period up 38-29 thanks in large part to their 10-19 performance from downtown.

The bench unit then started the second quarter where they left off en route to a 10-0 run capped off with another Obi Toppin 3 at the 9:13 mark of the quarter. Minnesota was forced to call a timeout and talk things over as their fans started to rain down boos. And it didn’t get any prettier for them after that, either. The Knicks were consistently getting stops, and it allowed them to get good looks on offense. Within a few minutes, they managed to go on another 10-4 run before Minnesota called yet another timeout. Coming out of the short break, D’Angelo Russell, who had been sitting for quite a while, finally got it going with a few baskets and free throws, but it really was just him and Towns anchoring the Wolves offense in the first half. Even with their offense slowly starting up, they still had a very hard time getting back into the game due their lack of defensive intensity. While the Knicks insanely hot shooting cooled off a bit the Wolves defensive effort remained, as Walt Clyde Frazier put it, “embarrassing.”

The rest of the quarter was a bit slower paced and ended up being pretty even, but the Knicks still managed to take a 76-52 lead heading in to the break. Randle led the way for New York with his 20 first-half points. He was also backed up by Brunson’s 10, Toppin’s 12, Barrett’s 9, and Quickley’s 7. For Minnesota, the aforementioned Russell (11) and Towns (13) were the only players to score more than eight through the first 24 minutes. Inexplicably silent for the Wolves was their young phenom Anthony Edwards, who is averaging a career-high 22.8 PPG this season, but only managed to score five points on five shots in 20 minutes.

Unfortunately for New York, their seemingly season-long third quarter woes plagued them yet again. Edwards, who looked lethargic and uninterested for most of the first half, suddenly awoke from his slumber and got off to a hot start in the quarter. The Wolves went on a 10-0 run. Barrett knocked down a big 3 to stop the bleeding but Thibs was still forced to call a timeout after a lazy defensive position led to an easy uncontested layup for Kyle Anderson. Coming out of the timeout, the Knicks coach drew up a beautiful play to get Brunson going downhill and he ended up finding Barrett in the right corner for a wide open three. The Knicks went on to weather the storm that was the Anthony Edwards show to start the half and capitalized on some bad Wolves fouls and overall uninspired play the rest of the quarter to take a 103-80 lead heading into the final period.

Just when it looked like it would be a fun blow out win where we’d get to see a Toppin windmill or through-the-leg dunk to cap it all off, Knicks fans were reminded that they can’t have things easy. Ever. Minnesota scored seven unanswered points in the first 1:09 of the period to cut the lead to 16, the lowest in the second half. And all of a sudden there were terrifying flashbacks to last Wednesday’s game against the Hawks. Would this be another masterful collapse by the Knicks? Were we going to be subjected to watch Randle make head-scratching decisions that would cost them the game? Thankfully, it never came to that. Minnesota gave the Knicks a scare but they never really got closer than that. They flirted with the idea of cutting the lead to single-digits but could never muster enough momentum through their woeful shooting and horrendous defense.

The Knicks never managed to regain their first-half form, but they were able to do just enough on both sides of the ball to keep the double-digit lead. The rest of the game, which included an extended stalemate at one point as the score remained 111-94 from the 7:04 mark until the 4:49 mark, pretty much went even and the Knicks wound up coming away with the 120-107 win to improve to 5-5 on the season.

Randle, along with his career-high 8 threes, led the team with 31 points and 8 rebounds. Along with those stats, he had some nice quotes. When asked by Mike Breen if as a rookie, he’d ever imagined shooting 13 threes in a game, he laughed and answered, “to be honest, no.” Randle was also interviewed by Barrett, who like many of us at home, asked, “How you do that?” Randle again laughed and said, “I just learn from the man himself.”

As P&T’er DWilTheCommunityAdvocate noted, it was a good night for those who still believe in Randle’s three-point shot.

While the talk of the town and the highlights will turn to Randle and his otherworldly shooting performance (still can’t believe he made 8 threes), he still had a couple of spurts where he had careless turnovers, looked out of it defensively, and held the ball too long. It was still a good game from him, and he was a big part of the win but, Brunson is just as deserving of recognition. He chipped in 22 points of his own while seemingly making all the right decisions once again. The 26-year-old point guard dropped 8 dimes in this one and now boasts a ridiculous 25-1 assist to turnover ratio over his last three games. Toppin’s performance also deserves mention, as he continues his hot outside shooting. After going 3-8 from downtown tonight, he’s now shooting 41.8% from three. To top if off, he grabbed a season-high 7 rebounds and also came away with a season-high 4 steals.

Overall, it was definitely a nice win, especially coming off of a disappointing and frustrating loss. And as evident below, it seems like the players are in better moods than they were last season.

But fans needn’t and shouldn’t read too much into just one win against this Wolves team. The Knicks saw the Celtics play one of the best full games a team has played this season last game and tonight, they saw a Minnesota team that was without their All-Star center in Gobert play one of the worst games a team has played all season. Their lack of effort and energy on both sides of the ball was inexplicably poor and overall just shameful. Sure, some of it had to do with the Knicks defense and their offensive execution, but this was just as much the Knicks playing well as it was the Wolves not showing up. They’ll head “home” to face the Nets in Brooklyn Wednesday.