This was one of those games where, when I asked for volunteers in the writers room to do the recap, everyone took a big step backwards. In truth, the most interesting thing about tonight was who wasn’t playing: Karl Anthony Towns missed a game for the first time in his NBA career, after 303 straight. His absence was due to a car accident he was involved in yesterday, and he has been placed in the league’s concussion protocol, meaning it’s likely he misses tomorrow night’s game in Milwaukee as well.
There was an actual game tonight, though it’s hard to generate a ton of enthusiasm about it. The Wolves replaced Towns in the starting lineup with Taj Gibson, as Gorgui Dieng was also absent for personal reasons. The Knicks got off to a quick start behind Damyean Dotson, who was filling it up from beyond the arc in the first quarter, to the tune of 18 points in the frame.
The Wolves quickly restored the order everyone was looking for, however, largely thanks to their bench unit, featuring Derrick Rose, Anthony Tolliver, and a once again healthy Tyus Jones. They took control in the second, and the Wolves maintained a comfortable lead for the rest of the night. The Knicks made a bit of a push late, getting within eight with about four minutes left, but they got no closer and this one was never really in doubt, as both teams got what they wanted: The Wolves are still entertaining hopes of making a playoff push and needed the win, while the Knicks are about the ping-pong balls at this point and are battling the Suns for the worst record in the league.
I don’t really know what to write about this game. The Knicks are bad, and the Wolves without Towns are slightly less bad. They got some good work off the bench tonight, and due to necessity played some odd lineups, including some true small ball with Luol Deng and Tolly as the “bigs.” It was nice to see Keita Bates-Diop get his first real playing time. His 13 minutes were a season high, and he showed a nice activity level.
Of course it’s easier to try different things when your opponent doesn’t really have the weapons to hurt you. The Knicks have a couple of interesting secondary pieces, but lack any sort of star power or real cohesion.
Fortunately, the Wolves did not have to expend a ton of energy tonight, since they face a much tougher test tomorrow night in Milwaukee. Assuming Towns won’t be available makes that one even tougher.
Let’s hit a few notes
- At this point it just feels like piling on, but: The boxscore tells me Andrew Wiggins played twice as many minutes as Josh Okogie tonight, which given how frequently I noticed the two of them I find hard to believe.
- The Knicks turned it over 21 times, which was a big factor tonight; 13 of them were Wolves steals out of which they got several easy baskets.
- Wolves had six guys in double-figures, played 10 players (all of whom got at least 13 minutes and all of whom scored.) I do appreciate Saunders’ willingness to get guys into the game.