The New York Knicks have won six of seven, including their last three, and now face a true challenge: The mighty Minnesota Timberwolves.
In case you missed it, the ‘Wolves are off to a stellar start this season and sit atop the Western Conference at 9-3. Minnesota is also undefeated at home and has won eight of its last nine. This includes not only two wins over the Steph Curry-led Golden State Warriors, but also one each over the East’s best Boston Celtics and the defending champion Denver Nuggets.
Enter the Knicks, who’ll bring their top-ranked defense to the Twin Cities to try and slay the latest Bunyanesque basketball giants.
Time: Monday, Nov. 20, 8:00 p.m. ET
Betting Line: Knicks +3, Over/Under 213 via DraftKings
Injuries: Quentin Grimes (Wrist; questionable), Evan Fournier (Ankle; questionable), Jordan McLaughlin (Knee; OUT), Jaylen Clark (Achilles; OUT)
Key Storyline: Randle’s Revenge. Few fans remember the high-scoring shootout that was the last New York-Minnesota meeting. Back in March, the Knicks hosted the ‘Wolves and saw star power forward Julius Randle pop off for a career-best 57 points…in a losing effort. Bad Knicks fouls and the Timberwolves hitting dagger threes saw New York blow a late lead and fall 140-134.
And to add insult to literal injury, or maybe injuries, neither Karl-Anthony Towns nor Anthony Edwards played that evening.
This is thus a low-key revenge game for the Knicks against a maturing Minnesota team. Can New York’s top defense outwork the Timberwolves’, which is no slouch at No. 5 in the league? But most importantly, will Randle show up extra-motivated, his career night ruined on his home court months ago? We’ll soon find out.
Key Matchup: Julius Randle vs. Karl-Anthony Towns. It’ll be a matchup of floor-spacing 4’s as Randle looks to keep up his hot streak against Minnesota’s star seven-footer. Towns is averaging 21.7 points and nine rebounds per game, making 49.5% of his shots and shooting almost 36% from three. His late-game heroics and game-winning shot helped the Timberwolves to a dramatic win over New Orleans on Saturday.
Randle, meanwhile, has averaged almost 24.3 points and nine rebounds in his last seven games. He’s shooting 45.5 from the field and over 34% from three over that stretch. The slow start is slowly fading to the background and after a 57-point outing in March, Randle should be motivated to score 60 this evening.
X-Factor: Josh Hart. Assuming Quentin Grimes’ wrist keeps him on the bench again, all eyes will be on Hart’s defense. He’ll likely draw the start and be tasked with guarding Minnesota’s leading scorer, Anthony Edwards. The former No. 1 pick got a max contract extension over the summer and has rewarded the Timberwolves with a career season. Edwards is averaging 26 points per game, has improved his percentages across the board and is even a better defender this year.
So what should Josh Hart do? He can’t take Edwards out of the game entirely, but he can sure try. This means forcing his shots, not giving an inch when he has the ball in his hands. If Hart can add some offense of his own, all the better. Regardless, slowing down Ant-Man is the Knicks’ key to victory, and that starts and stops with Hart guarding him.
Knicks predicted starters: Jalen Brunson (PG), Josh Hart (SG), RJ Barrett (SF), Julius Randle (PF), Mitchell Robinson (C)
Timberwolves predicted starters: Mike Conley (PG), Anthony Edwards (SG), Jayden McDaniels (SF), Karl-Anthony Towns (PF), Rudy Gobert (C)
Prediction: This game is Minnesota’s to lose for several reasons. They have the size to slow down Randle and the Knicks. Their defense is just as good as New York’s on a good day. Minnesota is also undefeated at home.
Except the Knicks have some vengeance motivating them. It stung watching Julius Randle score 57 and still lose. The Timberwolves are also just two days removed from an emotional comeback win over the Pelicans, one in which they trailed by double-digits entering the fourth quarter.
It’ll be another close one, but New York wins this in a tight finish.
Knicks beat Timberwolves 120-116.