Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis are redefining the role of the NBA big man.
The 7-0 Towns, last season's Rookie of the Year, and the 7-3 Porzingis, the runner-up, are imposing figures down low but can spread the floor with their ability to hit 3-pointers. And they aren't confined to the block, preferring to drift on the wing or at the elbow.
The two 21-year-old giants will meet for the second time in three nights on Friday when Porzingis and the New York Knicks host Towns and the Minnesota Timberwolves at Madison Square Garden.
Towns dropped in a career-high 47 points and grabbed 18 rebounds on Wednesday in Minnesota, but the Timberwolves (5-13) dropped a 106-104 decision to the Knicks (9-9) on Carmelo Anthony's jumper with 2.3 seconds to play. Since the 2003-04 season, Anthony has the most game-winning shots in the final five seconds of a game with 15.
Porzingis led New York with 29 points and eight rebounds. He's shooting at a 40-percent clip from 3-point range, including 44 percent (13 for 34) in his last five games.
Towns is 27 of 72 (.375) from the beyond the arc. He attempted 82 3-pointers all of last season.
“We are two big men that can kind of change the game,” Porzingis said. “We didn't play too much against each other, but he was being super-aggressive.
“He was driving to the basket, shooting from the outside, playing in the post. He was doing everything. We had trouble stopping him, but I'm happy we got the win.”
Towns, who is friendly with Porzingis, took Wednesday's loss to heart, even though he became the youngest player in Timberwolves history to score at least 40 points.
“I had some miscues where I let things slide away,” Towns said. “I missed three free throws, missed some rebounds, missed some shots I should have made.”
Porzingis saw some time at center as Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek prefers to play a “small” lineup with Anthony and three guards, leaving center Joakim Noah on the bench. Noah sat out Wednesday's game with an ankle injury.
It's the third game this season Noah has missed because of injury or illness. He's averaging four points and 8.4 rebounds in his first year with the Knicks. Kyle O'Quinn started at center in Noah's absence.
New York may also be without starting shooting guard Courtney Lee, who exited Wednesday's game with a left ankle sprain. If he is unable to go, Hornacek will look to a combination of Justin Holiday and Brandon Jennings, who has two games of 11 assists off the bench, to pair with Derrick Rose in the backcourt.