March 23, 2018, 11:23 pm
The Wolves secured their first winning season since 2004-05 and their first sweep over an Eastern Conference opponent this season with a 108-104 win over the Knicks in Madison Square Garden. It wasn’t always pretty, but in typical Wolves’ fashion it’s the results that matter and not necessarily the journey.
The Wolves came out firing in the first quarter, building a 15 point first quarter lead at one point, led by Karl-Anthony Towns. KAT, native to the area, was looking for his first ever win in the Garden in front of his family and friends and did not disappoint. He came out strong with 11 points in the opening quarter, adding three rebounds, an assist and a block.
The Wolves slipped up a bit in the second quarter and through the third. After building the lead up to 16 points, they lost the lead in the second half and were down by seven at one point. Tim Hardaway Jr. was a monster for the otherwise punch-less Knicks. Hardaway scored 39 points on the night with six 3-pointers. He shot 14-of-25 from the field.
No one on the Wolves could stop him, and he only seemed to be slowed down when he was parked on the bench.
Despite Hardaway’s best efforts, the Knicks could not overcome the Wolves once they wrestled back control late in the third quarter. The aforementioned KAT finished with 24 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, one steal, three blocks and two 3-pointers on 9-of-14 shooting from the field and 4-of-5 from the line.
Andrew Wiggins grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds in this game, adding 17 points, two assists, two steals and two 3-pointers. Amazingly, yet not terribly surprising, this was just the fifth time in Wiggins’ career that he’s exceeded 10 rebounds. Wigs has played in 318 games.
Thibs played his typical tight rotation, especially with Derrick Rose out, sending only five guys to the court. Six played over 20 minutes, and with a back-to-back looming tomorrow in Philadelphia the players may be a bit tired.
Four players played 38 minutes, including Namenja Bjelica and Taj Gibson. Beli finished with 17 points, six rebounds, two assists, two steals, one block and three 3-pointers, while Taj had 18 points, seven rebounds, one assist and one steal.
In the fourth quarter with under a minute left Bjelica came up with a spectacular save on a ball that was headed out of bounds and into Knicks possession. It ended up being a game-sealing play as the Knicks would have had a chance to cut the lead to two or one. Bjelica has been chipping in all around the court and his play of late has raised reasonable questions of what Thibs will do when Butler returns.
Outstanding play from Bjelica, potentially saving the game pic.twitter.com/v4n7GppGy1
— Kevin Brand (@KBranded) March 24, 2018
When the Wolves have been fully healthy, Bjelica has been limited to under 20 minutes per game, but he’s proven to be an extremely valuable piece for the Wolves and has earned more time. In all likelihood he will return to the bench in favor of Butler but it will be interesting to see if he’s earned more time in Thibs’ eyes. Tyus Jones had a hot stretch with Teague out, only to be relegated back to shorter minutes.
For now it’s not of concern as the Wolves are preparing for the 76ers on the road.
The Clippers lost to the Pacers, dropping them 3.5 games back of the Wolves.
The Nuggets won in Washington, keeping pace. The Wolves have two remaining games against Denver.
The Spurs beat the Jazz, creating some separation in the bottom, but not much.
The Thunder beat the Heat, remaining 1.5 games ahead of the Wolves.
The Blazers are currently battling with the Celtics. Portland is three games ahead of the Wolves.