The Minnesota Timberwolves defeated the New York Knicks 140-134 at Madison Square Garden on Monday night. Minnesota nearly blew a 17-point lead, but channeled resilience and defensive fervor down the stretch to secure the victory.
Both teams played outstanding basketball, particularly on the offensive end, and a megalithic battle between Taurean Prince and Julius Randle headlined the night.
Prince put forth one of the greatest regular season performances in Timberwolves history. He was one of seven Wolves players to score in double figures, recording a season-high 35 points on 12-13 shooting from the field and a perfect 8-8 from the 3-point line. Prince was helped by 24 points and 11 assists from Mike Conley Jr. and 18 points from Jaden McDaniels.
A loss for New York sullied one of the all-time regular season performances in Knicks franchise history. Randle scored a career-high 57 points on 19-29 shooting from the floor, albeit being a minus 6 on the night. Jalen Brunson offered 23 points and 10 assists in a supporting effort and Immanuel Quickley dazzled with 19 points off the bench.
Minnesota dominated the points in the paint battle 68-54, but both teams were otherwise neck and neck in every statistical category on the night. Here are the major takeaways from the exhilarating action:
Next Man Up
Before extrapolating the layers of excellence to Prince’s historic night, the team effort is what shone most. Without 2023 All-Star Anthony Edwards and franchise player Karl-Anthony Towns in the lineup, the Wolves truly upheld the ‘next man up’ mantra.
McDaniels continued to show immense progress in the diversification of his offensive repertoire. His 18 points were earned in a variety of ways. McDaniels put on full display his catch-and-shoot 3 pointer, floater, spin move and driving abilities. He also had two consecutive unsung offensive rebounds in the third quarter that gave the Wolves second chance opportunities in the midst of a Knicks surge.
Conley Jr. made timely baskets in all four quarters, making felt his veteran savvy in true show-don’t-tell fashion. Conley hit a bevy of floaters in the lane and went 3-5 from outside. He made it to the charity stripe nine times and was as aggressive as we’ve seen him in a T-Wolves uniform.
Jaylen Nowell strung together one of his more impressive performances on the year. His 14 points off the bench energized the offense. He was relentless in transition, taking it to the Knicks defense and excelled in the half-court, rising up for fadeaway 15-foot jumpers garnering ‘effervescent and vivacious’ commentary from Walt Frazier.
Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch and his injured stars have every reason to feel encouraged about their supporting cast rising to the occasion in an impending postseason berth.
A Prince’s Garden
Prince’s eight 3-pointers marked the third-most triples made in the regular season in Minnesota franchise history. He is also the only Wolves player to shoot 100% from outside on seven or more makes.
Prince now has the second-most 3-pointers made without a miss in NBA history — tied with Latrell Sprewell, Michael Finley, Steve Smith, Sam Perkins and Jeff Hornacek, and trailing only Ben Gordon (9).
Additionally, Prince’s 92.3% field goal percentage is the eighth-highest efficiency clip in league history among all players that have scored 35 points or more. He achieved this in the third-fewest minutes played among all qualifying players.
The seven-year veteran kept the New York defense on their toes all night and finished a plus-28 in the win.
Julius Randle or Kobe Bryant?
The comparison is far from hyperbolic. Randle was having his way all game. To no one’s fault but Minnesota’s, they did not harken unto the scouting report and film sessions on Randle’s tendencies. Rule No. 1 — do not let the 2023 All-Star walk into 3-pointers as the trailer on offense. He got a great many of his eight triples on the night by doing exactly that — two of which were wide open.
Once in rhythm, Randle got crafty with his offense, leaving a reinvigorated second-half Wolves defense inert for much of the way. Randle began crossing over, going into his dribble moves package and gave Naz Reid and Kyle Anderson an old fashioned clinic.
What made Randle’s night a spectacle was the degree of difficulty in which his shots came as the game waned. Randle began turning back shoulder on the baselines for fall-away 18-foot jump-shots — stuff you only see from smaller wing players like Bryant and LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers) to name a few. He was beating bigger and smaller defenders off the dribble on rack attacks. He punished the rim with tomahawk dunks.
Randle’s 57 points were the third-most scored by a Knicks player in franchise history. He fell just six points short of breaking Carmelo Anthony’s 62-point franchise record scored on Jan. 24, 2014 against the then-Charlotte Bobcats.
Defensive Woes Remedied in the Nick of Time
For 42 minutes, the Minnesota defense was putrid. The Timberwolves scored 79 points at the half but conceded 70 points the Knicks. They shot 58.3% from beyond the arc one the night — their second-highest percentage on the season — yet allowed New York to shoot 50% — the eighth time they've allowed an opponent to breach the 50% mark.
Coach Finch went to a 2-3 zone in the first half, which was picked apart by Randle and company. The bigs found their way to the top of the key, scrambling on rotations and the paint was left wide open for Isaiah Hartenstein and Obi Toppin to put their bricks in.
Minnesota had little answer for the rest of Knicks aside from Randle. Brunson was a menace in the midrange as usual. Josh Hart and RJ Barrett found easy opportunities going downhill and the overall 3-point defense was pedestrian at best.
However, Minnesota strung together a string of stops in clutch time to stifle a last-ditch effort drawn up by Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau. The T-Wolves held Randle to four points in the entire fourth quarter and extinguished his hot streak down the stretch. Kyle Anderson played stout defense. McDaniels came away with a game-defining steal on Randle and delivered a block on the latter’s final shot attempt, sending the MSG crowd home disappointed.
Minnesota has nine games remaining on their schedule. They trail the No. 7 seeded Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference standings as they are set to take on the Atlanta Hawks at home on Wednesday. According to a report from Shams Charania of The Athletic, both Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns could return to the floor.
There is optimism that Minnesota Timberwolves stars Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards (ankle) could return as soon as Wednesday vs. Atlanta Hawks, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium. Towns, sidelined since Nov. 28 with Grade 3 calf strain, is on the cusp of a major return.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) March 21, 2023
The Wolves are 20-17 at home on the year and 11-17 against Eastern Conference opponents. They defeated the Hawks 136-115 on Mar. 13, and their next matchup will finish the season series.