The New York Knicks (42-31) could have boarded a plane to Florida riding a four-game winning streak but they will have to conform with having won three of their last four after dropping Monday’s affair 140-134 to the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves (36-37) at MSG.
The Wolves entered the world’s most famous arena without Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns, both injured. They left it with a newly crowned king, his name being Taurean Prince.
What could have ended as a unique, historic, forever-remembered day in the lore of Madison Square Garden and the New York Knicks franchise instead turned into a game-losing nightmare.
Julius Randle started the game hot nailing 26 points in the first half but he really activated Puro Fuego mode after the break scoring 26 in the third stanza alone. For those counting at home, that’s already 52 pops.
Randle set an all-time mark by the final buzzer scoring the joint-third-most points in a game in Knicks history with 57. For those counting at home, that means Randle scored five fourth-quarter points.
The 26 third-quarter points marked a franchise record in a single period. The 57 total points put Randle in a very exclusive eight-member Knicks club of 50+ point-scorers.
“We gave them confidence early,” Randle said, “and we didn’t put the game away late.”
Minny hit the ground running and put 42 points past the Knicks in the first quarter alone to New York’s 32. The Knicks cut that distance down one point by the halftime break. Things changed in the third stanza with New York winning that quarter 38-30. It was (kinda) too late. Or was it?
The truth is, it was not. New York found itself two up with 2:17 remaining in the fourth. It went all wrong from that point on. Veteran guard Mike Conley hit three consecutive freebies, Minny took a commanding 132-131 lead, and the Knicks never found a way to get it back.
“It looked like we were in mud, a step behind on everything,” coach Tom Thibodeau said after the game.
The 42 points allowed to Minnesota in the first quarter are the most the Knicks have given up in a single period this season. The final 140 rank as the second-worst-overall defensive performance after giving up 145 to OKC all the way back in November.
“They got going, they’re a good offensive team. It’s hard to shut them off once they get going like that,” Tom Thibodeau said detailing the first-quarter woes. “They got everything they wanted. They had their way. “We got in a big hole but fought to get out of it. And then came up short in the end.”
The Knicks coach acknowledged that they “were playing with fire the whole game,” adding that “it’s hard to win like that.”
Truth be told, the Wolves needed everything and then some to beat New York on the road. The visitors shot 51-of-83 from the field and 14-24 from three. All of the Wolves starters scored 10+ points led by... Prince’s 35 on a Curry-esque night in which he hit 12-of-13 FGA... going 8-for-8 from beyond the arc. No mistakes.
Minnesota went for a perfect 10-for-10 to start the game. They shot 73% from the field in the first period. The Knicks were sublime shooting 60% in the same span but not even that could save them.
“Hopefully, I will be able [to take the positives out of a big individual offensive performance], but tonight probably not. I’m a little bit upset about the loss,” Randle said post-game. “I’m such a results-driven person, I try to focus on process a little bit more, and [I’m thinking]: are we taking the necessary steps to get better and build as a team?”
Offensively, yes. Defensively, a resounding no.
Thibs sounded off on his team problems on Monday, saying that the Knicks were “careless with the ball,” and that they turned the ball over too many times—although the Knicks committed just one more turnover than the Wolves, 16 to 15. “All we had to do is keep making a simple play [and] better decisions,” he added.
Mitchell Robinson played 28 minutes, scored zero points, and grabbed nine rebounds to go with two steals, two blocks, and two TOs.
Jalen Brunson completed a double-double effort with 23 points, 10 dimes, two boards, and a couple of thefts. RJ Barrett hit 13 and contributed three assists. Quentin Grimes hoisted one three-point shot, hit it, and that’s all he did on the scoring front.
Randle blamed the loss on himself and a missed rebound with 0:18 seconds to go and the Knicks down three. “It’s my job to come up with that rebound,” Randle said. “If we do that, we have a chance to win the game—or not win the game, but at least tie the game. So I didn’t get the job done.”
No ill feelings, brother, not after dropping a freaking fifty-seven.
Josh Hart and Immanuel Quickley combined for 29 points off the pine, six rebounds, and seven dimes. Isaiah Hartenstein scored five pulling down eight rebounds and assisting three buckets.
This was the wildest and unluckiest game ever for the Knicks. I mean, the Wolves became the first team through the 2022-23 season to start a game going 10-for-10 from the field. Taurean Prince fell just one three-point shot short of becoming the third player in the history of the Association to finish with a perfect 9-for-9 from beyond the three-point line.
The only thing that could have made things even worse for the MSG faithful would have been for Randle to score five more points becoming the joint-all-time greatest-single-game scorer (Carmelo Anthony, 62) in Knicks history... in a loss to a lowly Wolves bunch of guys.
“He played so well,” Brunson said about Randle’s outing. “He brought us back, he played unbelievable. We just got to be better as a team to help him make that career night feel like something special.”
Thibs summed it all up nicely: “We were not very good.” Brunson agreed: They didn’t miss... but we didn’t make them miss.”
Florida trip ahead with two back-to-back games on the road on Wednesday at Miami and Thursday at Orlando. Next tip-off at 7:30 EST. Don’t miss it.