The opportunity to immediately avenge a loss in the NBA is a rare one, especially when involving a member of the opposite conference. Home-and-home series are not nearly as common in the NBA as they are in the NHL, for one. The Minnesota Timberwolves get one of those opportunities at Madison Square Garden tonight, as they get their second shot at the New York Knicks within three days after a close 106-104 loss on Wednesday in Minnesota.
When matchups come this close back-to-back, it's usually pretty easy to pinpoint keys to the game. A key for the Wolves is not to let the fourth quarter get away from them and need to come roaring back in the closing minutes.The Wolves trailed for most of the game, sure, but the deficit didn't top ten points until the early minutes of the fourth quarter, when it ballooned to the Knicks' largest lead of seventeen points before the Wolves stormed back to tie the game late.
It's a return to that same theme that has plagued the Wolves throughout the year: one stretch of time where the focus leaves, the offensive flow ends, and the game gets away. The difference on Wednesday: they figured it out, and actually came back to make a game of it. The defensive energy and execution within the last few minutes of the game (bar the last possession, which we'll ignore for now) is what this team needs a whole lot more of the time.
Of course, ignoring the Knicks' efforts, the Wolves wouldn't have been close on Wednesday without the best single game of Karl-Anthony Towns' career so far. Another key: get Towns the ball at every possibility on Friday. He backed up his strong words after Monday's loss to Utah with a superhuman performance, and will only be burning more with yet another loss. Minnesota probably won't get another 47 point, 18 rebound and three block show from KAT, but let him work.
Lastly, of the 104 points total scored by the Wolves on Wednesday night, a grand total of five were scored by bench players. Where the Knicks got useful, double-digit contributions from Brandon Jennings and Mindaugas Kuzminskas, the Wolves got nothing. This is not news, the Wolves haven't had bench scoring all year, but someone has to get something to go: if even one of Nemanja Bjelica's four misses from distance goes in on Wednesday, the Wolves win.
This is a game the Wolves are capable of winning. If they can bring the level of execution they showed closing the gap late in Wednesday's game with any consistency, they can do it. Let's see what kind of show they're going to give the Garden.
|Ricky Rubio||Derrick Rose|
|Zach LaVine||Brandon Jennings?|
|Andrew Wiggins||Carmelo Anthony|
|Karl-Anthony Towns||Kristaps Porzingis|
|Gorgui Dieng||Kyle O'Quinn|
Courtney Lee and Joakim Noah are out for New York.
Date, Time, Broadcast
Minnesota Timberwolves at New York Knicks
Friday, December 2, 2016, 6:30pm CST
Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
TV: Fox Sports North, MSG, NBA League Pass
Radio: Wolves Radio Network, 830 AM WCCO in the Twin Cities
Behave yourself below the line, as always, and investigate our blogging colleagues at Posting and Toasting. Enjoy the game!