Knicks Preview: KP vs KAT and The Thibodeau Reunion
A preview of the New York Knicks’ road game against Tom Thibodeau, Karl-Anthony Towns, and the Minnesota Timberwolves.
After a disappointing loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder at the hands of superhuman Russel Westbrook, a new day is upon us. Tonight, the New York Knicks start a home-and-home with the Minnesota Timberwolves, starting in Minnesota at 8:00pm ET.
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A couple of different storylines take place tonight, first of which being the obvious matchup between the 2015 number one pick, Karl Anthony Towns, and fourth overall pick, Kristaps Porzingis. The two standout players from the 2015 NBA Draft go head-to-head tonight as both teams are in desperate need of a win.
The young Timberwolves are off to an underwhelming 5-12 start under new head coach Tom Thibodeau. The young nucleus of KAT, Andrew Wiggins, and Zach LaVine could be scary for years to come, especially under a veteran head coach like Thibs. Unfortunately, when you have a young team with no proven leaders, 5-12 can happen.
KAT isn’t taking these losses lightly, either. Per Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press.
“The more losses we keep accumulating, the more it feels like it’s my fault. Look myself in the mirror and I’ve got to play better.”
You would think KAT is posting pedestrian numbers, but he’s still averaging 21 points on 48.6 percent shooting along with 9.0 rebounds. On paper, it may seem like the Knicks should come away with a win here considering the 5-12 record. However, the Knicks are 1-6 on the road this season, and four of those six games were lost by more than 10 points.
If the Knicks want to turn it around tonight, they are going to need a big game from Kristaps Porzingis.
Porzingis currently leads the Knicks in win shares, offensive win shares, defensive win shares, PER, offensive ratings, blocks, and is tied with Joakim Noah in total rebounds. On the season, he’s averaging 20.9 points and 7.1 rebounds on 48.7 percent shooting.
The Knicks may have swept the season series last year, but Porzingis knows how big of a threat KAT can be. Per Marc Berman of The New York Post:
“He’s playing at a real high level, he’s going to be a big star in this league and i’m looking forward to having a long rivalry against him.”
The other storyline is Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau reuniting with his old players, Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. Berman asked Noah prior to tonight’s game about his relationship with Thibs: “With Thibs, you definitely butt heads. But you don’t realize what you have in him until he’s not around. He told me that when I played for him. We used to butt heads all the time.”
Thibodeau responded, and praised Joakim Noah on the type of talent that he was back in Chicago: “One year we lost all our point guards and we ran our offense through him. We ended up winning 48 games, he was defensive player of the year, 4th in MVP, and helped saved our season.”
These are encouraging words, especially considering how mightily Noah has struggled this season, averaging 4.0 points on 46 percent shooting and 8.1 rebounds a game. People are speculating that years of playing under Thibodeau and his intense defensive regimen in conjunction with playing high minutes, has lead to the Noah we see today. Thibodeau, however, believes we will see an elite Noah again:
“…But like any player, the health is a big component. When he’s healthy, he’s elite. And I do believe he’ll get there.”
Unfortunately, Noah is questionable for tonight’s game, and we may not be able to see him on the court. Thibodeau’s other former teammate, Derrick Rose, will be. Rose wanted to get a few words with Thibs before the game started tonight, but he isn’t holding his breath:
“He’s probably driving himself crazy — a lot of late nights, staff having a lot of late nights, too,’’ Rose said. “All comes with him trying to win. He’s a winner at heart. He wants to win every game. That’s the crazy thing about him. He’s probably up nights driving himself crazy a bit.”
If that’s true, Thibs will be looking at motivating his players to attack the basket and rebound the basketball, especially if Noah can’t suit up. As for the Knicks, they should be looking at two thingd.
The first is ball movement, as the Carmelo Anthony isolation game is becoming common down the stretch and proving ineffective. The second is a commitment to rebounding—something they did not show Monday against the Thunder. If they can consistently move the ball, get open shots, and rebound effectively, the Knicks will win tonight.
Prediction: KAT slightly outperforms KP, but the Knicks win, 104-98.
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