The Knicks followed up their Christmas Day win over the Atlanta Hawks with a 96-88 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday night, starting a four-game road trip.
Here are the key takeaways …
– With Miles McBride rejoining the team following clearing health and safety protocols (though he wouldn’t end up playing), the Knicks started Kemba Walker, Evan Fournier, RJ Barrett, Julius Randle, and Mitchell Robinson.
Meanwhile Minnesota was without stars Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell and Anthony Edwards due to health and safety protocols. Edwards technically cleared protocols earlier on Tuesday, but he was not yet ready to play.
– Fournier got things started for the Knicks, scoring the team’s first five points of the night in the opening minutes. Barrett picked up a couple of early fouls against Patrick Beverley, sending him to the bench earlier than Tom Thibodeau would have liked, as the Knicks offense started to churn with an 8-0 run. Fournier was in double figures in the first seven-plus minutes, as the Knicks maintained a four-point lead.
With just under four minutes to go in the first quarter, Immanuel Quickley checked in for the Knicks for the first time since entering health and safety protocols (he was cleared before Saturday’s game but did not play). Meanwhile, Randle knocked down some big shots and youngsters Obi Toppin and Quentin Grimes got on the scoreboard late to make it a 29-22 game after 12 minutes.
– Grimes drilled a pair of threes to get things going in the second quarter, pushing the Knicks’ lead to 15 points. A Taj Gibson putback then made it a 10-0 run for the road team, forcing a Minnesota timeout. Midway through the quarter, Grimes hit yet another three, giving him a team-high 11 points at the time. Minnesota answered back with an 11-3 run of their own, and the Knicks went ice cold down the stretch.
The Knicks’ lead was down to just three points at the half, as they scored just 15 total points in the second quarter to take a 44-41 lead into the break. Grimes (11) and Fournier (10) were the only Knicks in double digits at the half, while Randle and Robinson combined for 13 points.
– The T-Wolves scored the first four points of the third quarter, completely erasing a 17-point deficit and giving Minnesota their first lead since it was 9-7 early on. A Fournier three put the Knicks back ahead, but the sloppy play by both teams continued, with the Knicks seeming to have no answer for the Wolves’ zone defense.
Despite the ineffective shooting, the Knicks rebuilt their lead thanks to some hustle plays from Robinson and a Walker three. Malik Beasley continued to fire away to keep Minnesota in the game, but the Knicks took a 72-62 lead into the fourth. The Knicks shot just 41.4 percent through three, but Minnesota shot worse at 35.9 percent, including just 7-of-33 from three-point range.
– In the fourth, the Timberwolves again cut into the Knicks’ lead, but an Alec Burks three and a Robinson clean-up slam pushed the Knicks’ lead back up to eight. Barrett was held scoreless through the first three quarters, but he came alive with five big points in the fourth, including a three to put the Knicks up by seven with just over four minutes to go.
In the final minutes, Robinson continued to be a monster on the glass for New York, and a Barrett contested layup off an offensive rebound made it a seven-point game with 72 seconds left.
The Knicks held on to win, as Robinson had a monster night with 14 points and a season-high 18 rebounds. Five Knicks scored in double figures, led by Robinson. The Knicks found a way to win on a night when Randle and Barrett combined to shoot 8-of-30 for a combined 21 points.
The Knicks are right back at it on Wednesday night, taking on the Pistons in Detroit with tipoff set for 7:00 p.m.