Happy new year P&T family! Today, the New York Knicks (17-15) aim to break a three-game losing streak in a matinee matchup against the best of the West, the Minnesota Timberwolves (24-7). What a challenge with which to start 2024.
The game should mark the debut of OG Anunoby in the blue and orange, and may also feature some reserve minutes from Precious Achiuwa. Traded to New York on Saturday, Anunoby is expected to make a significant impact on New York’s defensive efforts. Since it will be his first game in a new system with new teammates, patience is recommended until he gets acclimated.
While in Toronto, Anunoby desired a larger role in the offense. As others have learned, it can be difficult to find a scoring rhythm on a Knicks roster that includes the ball-dominant players Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle. There’s a good chance OG will be just as frustrated here as he was there.
However, the guys who have struggled—RJ Barrett, Josh Hart, Quentin Grimes—often missed open shots or have hesitated to seize their moment. OG is known for his accuracy (I hear he’s brilliant from the corners) and is unlikely to shy away from opportunities to cash in points.
We’ll learn soon enough if Anunoby can increase from the 15 points per game he was averaging in Toronto to the 18 points RJ had been contributing this season—and how many points his defensive effort prevent on the other end of the court.
This will be the second meeting between the clubs this season. The Timberwolves won the previous meeting 117-100 in November, led by Anthony Edwards’ 23 points. The team usually plays the toughest defense in the league. Recently that defense struggled against the Thunder, and the Mavs and Lakers both challenged them. Nonetheless, I expect Minny to be primed to play today, unless they’re too hungover from their New Year’s Eve celebrations. (Is Bacchus a Knicks fan?)
Surprisingly, the T’Wolves rate in the bottom half of the league for offense (18th). They shoot well, ranking fifth for both field goal and three-pointer percentages, but they take the NBA’s least amount of shots per game. The November meeting between the clubs featured an ugly assault from downtown (Knicks 24%, Wolves 32%). Don’t count on the opponent offering such charity this time.
Edwards, averaging 32.1 points per game in his last eight games, will lead the furball brigade, while Karl-Anthony Towns seeks to break out of a recent slump. KAT has averaged 15.8 points and 8.4 rebounds in his last five outings, down from his season averages of 21 PPG and 9.3 RPG. He may be enduring a dry spell, but KAT is always motivated when he returns to the East coast (he hails from Jersey).
In their previous encounter, Minnesota’s bench outscored New York’s 43-30. Immanuel Quickley contributed 15 of the Knicks’ points in that affair. This season for New York, IQ and RJ were averaging a combined 32 points and 6.9 rebounds, and inquiring minds want to know how Thibs intends to recoup those stats.
Donte DiVincenzo put up a career-high 38 points and added six rebounds and four steals against the Pacers on Saturday. Those are just slightly above his season averages (10.5 PPG, 2.9 RPG). With Quickley gone, DDV and Quentin Grimes stand to receive more scoring opportunities, so their averages should improve. Plus, New York extended Miles McBride’s contract this week, so he is also expected to play more (18 minutes in Indiana). On Saturday, Evan Fournier got to play in his second game of the year due to Grimes being ill. And Thibs might see enough promise in Malachi Flynn to stir him into the mix. Geez, we could soon find ourselves with another logjam of wings trying to coexist in a nine-man rotation . . . unless there’s another trade a-coming . . . like maybe with Atlanta. . . .
Minnesota Timberwolves: Mike Conley, Anthony Edwards, Jaden McDaniels, Karl-Anthony Towns, Rudy Gobert
New York Knicks: Jalen Brunson, Donte DiVincenzo, OG Anunoby, Julius Randle, Isaiah Hartenstein
This is a tough one to call. How will the Knicks function with Anunoby in the ranks? Surely there will be a period of adjustment as the Knicks adapt to their new arrival, and he to them. Matinees are often dubious affairs at MSG, but then again, were the visitors in their hotel beds by curfew or did they enjoy the city after the ball dropped? How will our frontcourt of Randle and Hartenstein fare against KAT and Rudy?
The Timberwolves are a tough opponent, as evidenced by their record (second-best in the league), yet they are not invincible. Homer-heavy prediction: with a renewed commitment to defense—Anunoby, McBride, and a healthy Grimes can all be disruptive nuisances—New York edges out Minnesota in a slugfest. Knicks by +3.
Who: New York Knicks vs Minnesota Timberwolves
When: 3:00 pm EST, Monday, January 1, 2024
Where: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NY
Watch: MSG Network