After stumbling out of the gates and starting out the season with a 2-4 record, the Knicks have taken advantage of a softer portion of the schedule by going 6-1 in their last seven games to catapult themselves into a three-way tie for fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
A road win tonight would push their current winning streak to four but they’ll have a very tough test awaiting them. The Timberwolves, who currently hold the third-best winning percentage in the league behind just the Celtics and Sixers, are currently undefeated in their five home games and will put up way more resistance than the Wizards and Hornets did in the Knicks’ last two games.
The 9-3 Timberwolves are led offensively by a dynamic duo of Anthony Edwards, who is currently averaging 26 PPG, 5.6 RPG, and 5.1 APG, and Karl-Anthony Towns, who is currently averaging 21.7 PPG and 9 RPG.
New York is also facing that pairing at a very dangerous time. Edwards is taking the leap that everybody wanted to see from him in his fourth season and Towns, who started the season slowly, has been on fire, scoring 25 or more points in four of his last five games.
The good thing for the Knicks and their defense though, is that as a team, the Timberwolves rank just 14th in offensive rating. The bad news for the Knicks, however, is that the Timberwolves—whose elite defense has carried them to their hot start—are ranked third in defensive rating. They’re led by defensive anchor Rudy Gobert, and three other very good defenders in Mike Conley, Jaden McDaniels, and the aforementioned Edwards, who also seems to have taken another step defensively as well.
That isn’t to say New York will be outmatched. The Knicks have a three-headed monster in Jalen Brunson, Julius Randle, and RJ Barrett, and while Barrett struggled in his return against the Hornets, all three of them have looked pretty strong as of late outside of that game when playing together and individually.
Add in the exceptional seasons that Mitchell Robinson and Immanuel Quickley are having and the recent breakout of Donte DiVincenzo and the Knicks have a really solid shot handing the Timberwolves their first home loss of the season.
G- Mike Conley
G- Anthony Edwards
F- Jaden McDaniels
F- Karl-Anthony Towns
C- Rudy Gobert
New York Knicks
G- Jalen Brunson
G- Donte DiVincenzo
F- RJ Barrett
F- Julius Randle
C- Mitchell Robinson
Given Tom Thibodeau’s well-documented persistence on playing drop coverage, the Knicks could be in for a long night against Towns who is one of, if not the, best shooting big men in the league. We can’t forget about Edwards, who is capable of going off for 40 points on any given night.
On the other end, Minnesota matches up with the Knicks incredibly well. Conley will make Brunson work extra hours for every basket, which could result in some fatigue later on in the game, and McDaniels could also make things difficult for Barrett, who may still not be 100%. Gobert will also make any rim attempt a challenge, which doesn’t bode well for Randle either.
Thankfully, the Knicks still have a shot at outscoring the Timberwolves given their own excellent defense and Minnesota’s mediocre offense. With this game being a matchup between two teams ranking in the top five in defensive rating, that prioritize rim protection, expect a low-scoring affair that will come down to outside shooting. With the Knicks shooting the three-point shot the way they have been as of late, they’ll pull out a big early season victory, 110-105