While Karl-Anthony Towns has broken through what may have been an early rookie wall, struggling Kristaps Porzingis insists he isn’t sure what that means.
In a matchup pitting two of the top four picks in this year’s draft, Towns will try to help the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves avoid their eighth loss in nine games Wednesday night against Porzingis and the New York Knicks.
After he was selected first overall in the June draft, Towns – a New Jersey native – watched as Knicks fans booed the selection of Porzingis three picks later.
Both players, however, have justified those selections by earning the NBA Rookie of the Month award for their respective conferences in November. That doesn’t surprise Towns heading into his first head-to-head matchup with the 7-foot-1 forward.
"(Porzingis) is very tall. I know that from the get," Towns said. "I heard he was very talented coming out and I’m just glad that he’s been able to make my way up home proud."
Towns averaged 15.8 points and 10.6 rebounds over his first 12 games before encountering his first rough patch. He scored 8.4 per game over a five-game stretch from Nov. 23-Dec. 1.
The 6-foot-11 center has regrouped nicely, averaging 18.5 points on 61.3 percent shooting over his last six contests. He scored 18 to go along with six boards in Tuesday’s 112-100 home loss to Denver that extended Minnesota’s losing streak to three.
Porzingis, meanwhile, has become a fan favorite in the city that booed him in June. He averaged 14.6 points and 8.9 rebounds in his first 22 games before totaling 17 points on 6-of-25 (24.0 percent) shooting on New York’s three-game western trip.
The Latvian sensation is confident he’ll be able to get on track after missing all six of his field-goal attempts in his first scoreless effort Saturday, a 112-110 win at Portland.
"It’s a couple of bad games," Porzingis insisted. "It happens. It happens to all of us, not only rookies. I’m just looking forward to the next game. I’m preparing myself as good as I can. I don’t really know what a rookie wall is."
Porzingis should get some open looks against a Minnesota team that has allowed an average of 112.0 points and a 48.4 field-goal percentage over its last six games. The Timberwolves (9-15) let the Nuggets shoot 56.2 percent and 10 of 18 from beyond the arc.
Afterward, coach Sam Mitchell hinted that it was time to change the starting lineup.
"I want to sleep on it and make sure," he said.
Minnesota swept last season’s series with New York (11-14) for the first time since 2006-07 and has won the past two trips to Madison Square Garden. Kevin Martin had 22 points and Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins added 20 apiece in a 95-92 overtime win there March 19 in what was then a battle between the league’s two worst teams.
Wiggins finished with 23 points and LaVine scored 20 on Tuesday. Wiggins leads the Wolves with 20.6 points per game, while LaVine has totaled 38 in his last two.
New York also has slipped defensively, allowing 105.0 points per game and a 46.9 field-goal percentage over its last five. Carmelo Anthony helped make up for those shortcomings Saturday with a season high-tying 37 points as the club ended its second four-game skid of the season.
The Knicks have won consecutive games once since a four-game run in mid-November.