new york knicks
(Courtesy YouTube: Knicks)

Despite blowing a 25-point lead, the New York Knicks were able to hold off the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday night.

Danny Small

  • New York Knicks 103 (15-16)
  • Minnesota Timberwolves 99 (7-24)
  • NBA, Final, Box Score
  • Madison Square Garden, New York, NY

The New York Knicks rebounded against the Minnesota Timberwolves after losing in blowout fashion to the Orlando Magic earlier in the week. The Knicks have won four of their last five games.

Julius Randle and RJ Barrett led the way for the Knicks on Sunday night, combining to score 46 points on 50% shooting. New York’s bench had another down game, but the starting lineup was able to pick up the slack.

Here are three highlights and three observations from New York’s 103-99 win over Minnesota.

Highlight 1: Spinning & Winning

Highlight 2: Julius Randle Stepback

Highlight 3: Taj Gibson Defending Karl-Anthony Towns

Observation 1: Crisis Averted

The Knicks nearly gave this game away to the Timberwolves. New York opened up a 25-point lead in the second half, but Minnesota never gave up. A strong Timberwolves stretch at the end of the third quarter and the start of the fourth put them back into the game.

Nevertheless, the Knicks avoided disaster with critical plays down the stretch. Randle and Barrett hit a few big shots in clutch time and Taj Gibson played terrific defense on Karl-Anthony Towns.

It wasn’t pretty, but the Knicks escaped with a win and learned something in the process.

“You know we’re striving to become a 48-minute team,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters on his postgame Zoom call. “We still have a long way to go and hopefully we learned from this.”

Observation 2: Many Hands Make Light Work

Randle and Barrett were Batman and Robin on Sunday night. Randle continued his All-Star campaign with 25 points, 14 rebounds, and four assists. Barrett, on the other hand, added 21 points, including a few game-changing plays down the stretch.

Randle and Barrett led the way, but the rest of the starters provided major minutes in the win. All five starters scored in double figures and they received critical contributions from Gibson and Alec Burks off the bench. Burks salted the game away with free throws, but Gibson’s defense on Towns was the play of the game.

That’s the great value in Taj, the ultimate teammate,” Thibs said after the game. “He’s always been a terrific defender. He always stays ready. And he does whatever you ask him to do.”

Gibson was called upon to replace Nerlens Noel after he picked up his sixth foul. Despite not seeing much of Towns during the game, Gibson’s hard work in the film room paid off.

“I knew that he was really trying to get middle,” Gibson explained to reporters. “That’s all I watched the last couple of days in these couple practices we’ve had, I know he wanted to get middle. And I know that’s going to move, and I just tried to warm up, be physical.”

Observation 3: Quick Hook For Quickley

Player development is not linear. All young players are going to go through ups and downs in their first few NBA seasons. Although he looks like a 10-year veteran at times, Immanuel Quickley is not immune to rookie slumps.

Coach Thibs had Quickley on a very short leash on Sunday, only playing the dynamic rookie guard nine minutes. The knee-jerk reaction is to say that the Knicks are hampering his development when Thibs only plays him a handful of minutes.

However, the counterpoint is that IQ has looked off in his last two games. He was 1-for-12 from the floor against Orlando on Wednesday and finished 1-for-5 in just nine minutes on Sunday.

This isn’t the version of Quickley that fans have fallen in love with, but that’s OK. Rookies are going to struggle and this does not mean that IQ is falling out of the rotation.

When the Knicks traded for Derrick Rose, they made it clear that they are pushing for a playoff spot this season. The organization is valuing big-game experience over a high volume of minutes for their young players. Don’t hit the panic button on Quickley or the Knicks’ player development plan just yet.