Kristaps Porzingis Karl-Anthony Towns New York Knicks
(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Despite the long-awaited return of Tim Hardaway Jr., the New York Knicks dropped another game, this time to a Minnesota Timberwolves squad who bullied the road team all evening long led by Karl-Anthony Towns. 

  • New York Knicks 108 (19-23)
  • Minnesota Timberwolves 118 (28-16)
  • NBA, Final, Box Score
  • Target Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota

It was a meaningless play with the game already decided, but it was symbolic of the entire night for the New York Knicks.

With under a minute to go, off of a steal by the returning Tim Hardaway Jr., Kristaps Porzingis galloped down the lane for an empty calories dunk, only to have the ball swatted away by Jimmy Butler at the last moment. Much like a game that at one point seemed to be within their grasp, Porzingis let it get away from him at the most inopportune moment.

Minnesota won by a final score of only 118-108 thanks to a late Knicks run, but the game was essentially over when the Wolves went up by 19 with just over five minutes to go on a three by Jamal Crawford. It was the exclamation point on a 24-6 run during which the Wolves showed the gear that will make them a tough out in the west playoffs, while the Knicks showed why they still have a way to go.


New York Knicks

A lot not to like

For a road game against the team with the sixth-best record in the league and one that New York led at halftime and was within one point to start the fourth quarter, the Knicks sure managed to look ugly in a lot of areas. With a few exceptions, the Timberwolves came out with more effort and energy on both ends of the court from the beginning of a game that New York always felt somewhat lucky to be keeping close.

It seemed like every loose ball and contested rebound went to the home team when it mattered most, with Minnesota out-rebounding the Knicks 16-9 on the offensive glass. That difference, plus 16 New York turnovers to the Wolves’ 12, contributed to the final score even though the Knicks outshot Minnesota on the night, 54.2 percent to 51.6. It also didn’t help that the first New York free throw came with under two minutes left in the third quarter.

Towns does it all

Nowhere was the disparity between these two teams more apparent than in the night’s marquee matchup. Karl-Anthony Towns showed yet again why his ceiling is the best offensive big in the league, falling one assist shy of a triple-double. With the Wolves down at halftime, Towns came out and made it his personal mission to get the game back in Minnesota’s control, scoring seven of the Wolves’ first nine points after halftime, seemingly at will.

Meanwhile, for all the excitement Kristaps Porzingis generated early this season, tonight showed yet again just how far away he is from producing on Towns’ level. Unlike KAT, who shot an efficient 9-15, KP was 6-19 and once again looked lost in the fog that has engulfed him seemingly since Hardaway Jr. went out. He’s an automatic double for opposing teams when he puts the ball on the floor, and his three turnovers tonight all felt needless and predictable.

The handwringing over Porzingis is going to start to get some volume if it hasn’t already. He is a 22-year old quite clearly incapable of carrying a team on his shoulders by himself—not yet, at least—but seems determined to try and figure out a way to do so. This was always supposed to be a season of learning and adjusting for Porzingis. He just threw us all off the scent for a while.

Silver linings

On the bright side, early in the game, it was encouraging to see the big man get some easy looks—something the team was clearly making an effort to facilitate. These will come more often now that a certain shooting guard is back to help space the floor and deflect attention from Porzingis.

Tim Hardaway Jr. didn’t start the game, but that didn’t prevent him from being easily the Knicks’ best player on the night. He scored 16 points, including hitting four of eight from deep and provided a burst of energy that no one else on the Knicks can quite replicate.

Overall, Timmy was plus 11 in his 26 minutes, and the Knicks looked like a different team when he was out there, more similar to the one that had the city abuzz over the season’s first month. His absence has been felt severely and had Jeff Hornacek put him back in a bit earlier in the fourth quarter, this might have been a game down the stretch. He figures to make his way back into the starting lineup before long.

Michael Beasley had another Michael Beasley game, shooting an effortless 6 of 8 for 13 points but also putting forth a similar effort on the other end of the floor. Despite his scoring binge, he was a minus-four on the night.

Positive mindset

If Knicks fans are looking for a reason to retain hope in a season that looks like it’s going the way of the last two, after the game Jeff Hornacek expressed optimism that the team isn’t that far away. When Kristaps Porzingis was asked about his coach’s comments, he agreed, noting that “we’re in a bad moment right now, but we’re going to [get out of it].” He doesn’t seem overwhelmed by his recent struggles.

All in all, it was another tough loss for a team racking them up at a faster pace. As this month goes on, if wins continue to be hard to come by, New York is going to have some very interesting decisions to make as the trade deadline nears. For now, at least, they’ll continue to try and fight their way out of it.

Despite another setback, they still seem up to the challenge.

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