Over the course of December and the early parts of January, the Minnesota Timberwolves have played with a peculiar edge that has flip-flopped their previous tendency of building a lead and utterly blowing it with building a lead and proceeding to smash their opponent. In the past seven games, the Wolves have held each of their opponents under 100 points — good for the longest current streak in the NBA this season.
In what seems like the blink of an eye in Wolves years, this team has completely turned its defensive struggles around, moving from one of the worst defenses to one that is suddenly poised, even-keeled and crafty. Looking back at the first two months of the season, Minnesota ranked 23rd in defensive rating at 107.5. Meanwhile, since December 1, they’re now ranked tenth at 104.8.
As Wolves fans continue to hold their breath in hopes that this enigmatic turnaround isn’t a fluke, Minnesota plays host to the New York Knicks tonight who are fighting to remain relevant in the East.
While the Wolves are seemingly starting to figure things out, the Knicks are falling off the back of the Unicorn they rode in on. They’ve lost eight of their last ten games, with those two wins coming against the New Orleans Pelicans and the Dallas Mavericks.
Following a strong start that initially put him in some premature MVP discussions, Kristaps Porzingis has cooled off a bit since October and November. But that’s not to say he’s no longer the Unicorn everyone raves about. He’s averaging career highs in 3-point percentage (37%), points per game (23.7) and blocks per game (2.3) — in addition to his highest usage percentage by far at 32.5.
What Wolves fans really care about in this one though is the return of Prodigal Son, Michael Beasley, who has had a storied career as a Knick already in the few months he’s been there, and is averaging 19.1 ppg in the last 12 games.
Seriously though, it’s important for Minnesota to keep this momentum going strong in games like these. Although it happens less frequently than last season, the Wolves still have games where they lapse and play down to their opponents (Phoenix, Memphis, Charlotte).
Given the fact that Karl-Anthony Towns has been quietly owning the Unicorn Debate in recent months, I think it’s safe to say he’ll bring that energy to tonight’s game and carry this team forward. Ever since Joel Embiid clowned him on Instagram, he’s had a certain fire burning toward his precocious big-man peers. Not to mention the fact that he’s suddenly playing great defense. (Could he truly be KG incarnate after all?!?)
With the Wolves just one game behind the injured Spurs for the third seed in the West, it’s important that KAT and the Wolves’ keep that fire burning for mid-winter games like this.
Injuries: Tim Hardaway Jr.: Questionable (leg)
Wolves 107, Knicks 94 - The Wolves keep their momentum rolling with a big game from KAT that brings their streak of holding opponents under 100 points to eight games in a row.