Knicks 96, Timberwolves 88: “Thibs is the new Mr. Magoo”

See that photo above? Obi reaching for the basketball? Reminds me of this.

If we are to believe the biblical account of creation, God who created the universe was a potluck. Not your everyday potluck, mind you. This lasted six days and each marked the birth of a fundamental aspect of existence. The New York Knicks did not provide life in Minnesota on Tuesday.

They won a basketball game, 96-88, a feat in itself, especially for a team that is now on its first winning streak since before Halloween. At times, the two teams looked like they were creating basketball in real time, 10 lowercase gods crushing atoms, masoning free throws, and ringing 3s and turning the ball around. If beauty moves you, this game didn’t. But with the seven teams closest to New York in the Eastern standings, all on losing streaks, this little run has already moved Thibs’ kids into a better neighborhood.

The Knicks won a dangerous game, the friendly teams that miss playoffs and play-ins lose. Despite missing Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell and Anthony Edwards, the Wolves recovered from a double-digit deficit one night to beat Boston. They are easy to overlook, especially now. It is a season with ups and downs. Omicron has gone on a rampage. It’s the holiday. This year’s Knicks haven’t shown us anything since they were 5-1 and then got their first blow. They stumbled around for almost two months, one sputter after another. After the Christmas win over Atlanta by winning this game while I was in charge for such a good part of the night – that shows something.

As above, so below: The Knicks’ attempt was a pot of luck. In the beginning, the ball movement twisted and turned like sycamore seeds. The main beneficiary of all that intelligent design was Evan Fournier, who hit double digits in the first quarter.

The Knicks had great pick-and-roll success, which led to the Wolves countering with a zone. For a while, the Knicks also went well in the zone, thanks in part to Quentin Grimes hitting a triplet of triples and Obi Toppin showing off the full repertoire: three assists along with the usual highlight finish. The Knicks went up 17 and couldn’t buy a bucket for the rest of the half; Minnesota closed with a 19-5 run to make it a three-run game at the break.

What’s your potluck blockbuster? Good mac and cheese is hard to beat. Not just because it’s so good itself, but because, like food compounds, it’s actually a dollop of goodness. You can put, eat, and love pretty much anything in mac and cheese. It glorifies the world around it.

Mitchell Robinson is the mac and cheese of the Knicks. Typically devastating in his efficiency around the rim, he grabbed 18 rebounds in just 32 minutes and led a defensive effort that saw the Knicks conceded under 90 points for the third time this year. Mitch’s play on both sides freed up his teammates to be more aggressive: normally, a ride to the ring must end in a crafted basket to be successful; as Mitch MITCH! a shot alone is worth two points because he’s going to flush it. He was the best player on the floor.

Even the best player on the floor needs help. In the third which took the form of Kemba Walker emptying a couple of 3s late to reduce the lead to double digits. In the fourth, Minnesota kept pushing, but every time they did, RJ Barrett, plagued with fouls and scoreless until the last minute, pushed back.

The reserves shot 52% of the field to the 37% of the starters, and for the first time in 25 days, five Knick subs played more than 10 minutes. There have been games lately with only two seeing those minutes. Finally, a dash of spice dresses up almost any dish. They are no more spicy than Taj Gibson.

I don’t know how much time God’s creation has left, or Tom Thibodeau’s. I feel like enjoying a Knicks win. That is it. Things are a little brighter than they’ve been in a while – Immanuel Quickley played for the first time since going on COVID leave. Miles McBride is free to play. After a lot of different starting grids, the Knicks had the same five tonight as they had on opening night. The Wolves only had one, Jaden McDaniels. The Knicks are getting healthier and that has coincided with some wins, and that raises my hopes a little bit, and I’m thankful for that, and I want some more.

Comments:

  • Mitch, Obi, Taj and Alec Burks together made 15 of the 19 shots (79%). The rest of the Knicks were 22 of 71 (31%).
  • How much would you give Mitch if he played like this 60-70 times a year?
  • Mitch has traded lobs for offensive putbacks. He also wore tape on his wrist after hurting it in a dunk, which is hot for this Patrick Ewing fan. It also makes Robinson look taller. I’m a big believer in Mitch getting wrists taped full time.
  • I can’t prove this yet – but I swear that every time Obi fakes and drives a dribbling hand-off, something good happens.
  • Rod Strickland was always the best guard I’ve ever seen finish on the rim. Kyrie Irving is here now too. Rod is still #1 among Knicks. We often talk about guards when we talk about great finishers, but Obi climbs up the list. His lay-up and glass play are works of art of beauty. Stacy Patton and I started hosting a Knicks pod on Bleav and he talked about Toppin’s incredible body control, how many times he rides and goes up for what seems like a sure strike but not only avoiding the offense but the movement finishes.
  • Greg Monroe back in the NBA. Remember when people jumped out of buildings after the Knicks didn’t put Monroe into free agency? That brings me back.
  • Watch Taj Monroe guard around the neighborhood… I like that kind of thing, where you realize that this is probably the last time you see something you’ve ever seen so many times that you took it for granted.
  • Kemba Walker held onto the ball as the closing seconds ticked away as Patrick Beverley dove in and forced a jump ball with one second left. Many of the players from both teams laughed; Kemba didn’t even jump. Later, Bev played the defense of the free throw, suddenly leaping across the court as some Knick was about to release his shot. I enjoy Beverley.
  • Jake Layman scored nine for the Timberwolves. I’m only mentioning this because apparently this is his sixth year in the NBA and I swear I’ve never seen or heard of this guy.
  • In addition to getting rid of the take error, could the NBA also move the benches a few feet from the sidelines? I hate to see people on the couch yelling at someone who shoots in front of them. There’s no way the league can love what that looks like. Does it serve or advance the game in any way?
  • Tonight in OAKAAKUYOAK alums around the competition: The Milwaukee/Orlando match featured five former Knicks, with Bobby Portis, Wesley Matthews and Thanasis Antetokounmpo besting Robin Lopez and Iggy Brazdeikis.
  • Mike Breen tried to put a smiley face on COVID with how great it is to see all these hardships get a chance to play, and I get it. Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. Unless you take a ride in an amusement park that everyone is slowly realizing that it’s derailed, and it’s speeding up and heading for a sharp turn that some of you won’t survive. In that case, lighting a candle makes no sense. Better to curse. At least you’ll have company.

Quoth the Skycap: “Thibs is the new Mr. Magoo.” I like the music of that. The next game is tonight, a 7:00 tip in Detroit. I hope to see you all next year.

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