As we slowly but surely inch closer to regular season basketball, the Knicks take on the Minnesota Timberwolves in their second preseason contest tonight. And unlike the Knicks’ first game of the preseason, which was against the Celtics’ B-squad, it should be a very good test. Minnesota, who is looking to make the type of leap this season that the Knicks did last season, is currently 2-0 after beating the Dallas Mavericks twice and has looked pretty impressive so far.
In their first game, Minnesota held Dallas to just 99 points while scoring 111 points without their star guard, Anthony Edwards, thanks in large part to Karl-Anthony Towns, who was incredibly efficient and aggressive in the limited minutes he played. In just 17 minutes of action, the New Jersey native shot 16 times and scored a team-high 20 points. The Timberwolves also got some great contribution from Naz Reid, who chipped in 16 points in 18 minutes off the bench. And in game two, the Timberwolves held the Mavericks to just 96 points and rode a balanced scoring effort to win by eight points.
Now, it’s dangerous to try to read too much into preseason games. We’ve all seen players and teams perform completely differently once the season starts. But, it is hard to ignore that Minnesota, at least thus far, looks like a very solid team with two very capable and dangerous scorers and has some great defenders in Jalen McDaniels and Rudy Gobert to complement them.
We then have the Knicks, who are probably even harder to judge right now than the Timberwolves are, given the fact that they’ve only played one game and that lone game came against none of the Celtics’ starters. That being said, it was still nice to see them come away with the win and get some solid performances from Jalen Brunson, who scored 10 points on 4-5 in six minutes, Julius Randle, who scored 11 points on 3-4 in 13 minutes, Immanuel Quickley, who scored 21 points on 8-14, and Mitchell Robinson, who had 10 points and seven rebounds in 23 minutes.
As the regular season nears, hopefully we get to see the major rotational players get more minutes tonight as they continue to ramp up and get ready for opening night.
While some fans may want a look at Quickley in the starting lineup, so far, we’ve been lead to believe that nothing will change. Coach Tom Thibodeau will continue to roll out his usual starting lineup of Brunson, Grimes, Barrett, Randle, and Robinson—and for good reason. They looked solid in the minutes they were together last game, and that is the lineup that the team will lean upon the most when the season begins. With the minutes restrictions hopefully increasing, fans should keep an eye on a few things, including, but not limited to, the continued growth of Grimes, the efficiency and effectiveness of Barrett, and how quick and healthy Randle looks coming off of his first preseason game.
But fans also shouldn’t expect to get their hopes up too high. Even though Thibodeau is notorious for running his starters into the ground, he did hint before the first preseason game that the minutes will ramp up slowly. With Brunson being as good and important as he is, and Randle coming off an ankle injury, the belief right now is that neither will get big minutes tonight. Instead, expect Grimes, Barrett, and Robinson to continue soaking up the starters’ minutes with Hartenstein, Sims, McBride, DiVincenzo and Quickley all getting some extended run again.
Minnesota will likely run out a starting lineup of Conley, Edwards, Alexander-Walker, Towns, and Gobert, as McDaniels has been ruled out with a left calf strain. The Timberwolves, much like the Knicks, have also used their starters sparingly thus far, so fans will likely only get to see about 20 minutes of Edwards, Towns, Conley, and Gobert. Filling up the rest of the minutes will likely be Kyle Anderson, Troy Brown Jr., Shake Milton and the aforementioned Reid.
Minnesota is coming off of two wins, but they were against a Dallas Mavericks team that is still trying to find it’s way and learn how to play off each other. New York, despite having some new faces, won’t have to worry about that as much. While their first game was far from convincing or dominating, I expect them to pick up a win at home to go 2-0 and hand Minnesota their first preseason loss. With Brunson expected to play limited minutes again, I expect Quickley, who is still looking for a contract extension, to stay aggressive and put together another impressive outing. Knicks win 110-108 in a close one with Quickley scoring 20-plus points.