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Wolves at Knicks: Starting Anew

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With just 10 games remaining this season, the Wolves are in New York to take on the floundering Knicks

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Minnesota Timberwolves Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Wolves at Knicks
6:30 pm CST
Fox Sports North

Wolves Odds:

Spread: -7
Money line: -300
Over/Under: 222.5


After a disappointing loss to the Brooklyn Nets on January 3rd, the Wolves sat at 24-15 for the season – fourth in the Western Conference. They boasted the League’s fifth best offensive rating (109.9) and 23rd best defensive rating (107.2) to that point, and despite some preventable losses seemed to be outperforming the expectations of most. But as the team traveled from New York City to Boston for a Friday night tilt against the Celtics, players and fans anticipated a sharp uptick in the difficulty of their schedule.

Before January 5th, 18 (46%) of the Wolves 39 games had come against teams that are playoff bound, and just two saw them face groups that currently sit in the top three of their respective conference (HOU, GSW, POR, TOR, BOS, CLE). Nonetheless, they racked up wins as chemistry was built.

But starting with that game in Boston and spanning through Tuesday’s win over the L.A. Clippers, the Wolves would face their most daunting extended stretch of the season. Those two-and-a-half months included 33 games, 24 (73%) of which found them facing postseason bound squads, and a whopping 15 of which came against said top three teams (TOR x2, BOS x2, CLE x2, GSW x2, HOU x4, POR x3).

Not only did the Wolves face adversity in their competition, they were bit by the injury bug at an inopportune time. Of those 30+ games, Jeff Teague was sidelined for the first three and Jimmy Butler for the final 10. But the Wolves young core, together with savvy veteran newcomers, weathered what could have been a disastrous storm; they went 17-16, highlighted by the league’s second best offensive rating (113.4) and 27th best defensive rating (111.2) during that period. Karl-Anthony Towns led the way with 21.8 points, 13 rebounds and 2.7 assists on staggering .571/.474/.888 shooting splits, more than vindicating his first all-star selection. Combined with consistent improvement from Andrew Wiggins, steady play from Taj Gibson, the rise of Nemanja Bjelica and the return of a healthy Teague, the Wolves have stayed afloat when many expected they could drown.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Minnesota Timberwolves Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Still, as their sights turn to a more forgiving final ten games of the season – five of which will see them face tanking teams – the Wolves must avoid complacency. As their Western Conference competitors continue to roll, the Wolves will need to win a majority of their remaining games to give themselves a shot at a top-six seed, thus avoiding the Houston Rockets or Golden State Warriors in a potential first round match-up.

Tonight, Towns and the Wolves will face a reeling New York Knicks team that has gone just 3-14 since losing Kristaps Porzingis to a torn ACL. It’s a bad Eastern Conference foe on the road; we’ve done this dance before. But as the Wolves push closer to their first post-season appearance in over a decade, intensity has amplified. If that continues, they’ll drop the hammer on the Knicks tonight.

Expected Lineups

Wolves

Jeff Teague
Andrew Wiggins
Nemanja Bjelica
Taj Gibson
Karl-Anthony Towns

Knicks

Emmanuel Mudiay
Courtney Lee
Tim Hardaway Jr.
Michael Beasley
Enes Kanter