Second-Year Big Men Prove They Are Truly Something Special

By John Schmeelk
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Wednesday night reinforced to Knicks fans why they were so annoyed that they lost out on the first pick of the NBA draft two years ago. They were forced to watch the Timberwolves take generational talent Karl-Anthony Towns.

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Towns put up an otherworldly stat line, scoring 47 points, making 15 shots on just 22 field goal attempts, and connecting on 17 of 20 free throws. He also grabbed 18 rebounds and blocked three shots. He was unstoppable no matter where he got the ball.

Knicks fans, however, were also reminded of something else: They got one hell of a consolation prize in Kristaps Porzingis. He scored 29 points of his own on 11-of-20 shooting, three 3-pointers and four free throws to go along with eight rebounds, four assists and two emphatic blocked shots (one on Towns). Porzingis also had an offensive rebound and dunk late in the game to help seal the late victory. I don’t think there’s one Knicks fan out there complaining anymore.

These two big men embody the new-age NBA. They can stretch to the 3-point line, drive off the dribble and post up. There really is nothing either guy can’t do. Both of these young studs might be All-Stars as early as this season and should be top players in the league for a long time to come. It will be a lot of fun to watch. They will represent their respective franchises for a long time.

Anthony Closes Game Out

Carmelo Anthony is catching some heat for his performance, finishing just 5-of-16 from the field for only 14 points and a minus-17 plus/minus. When the game was on the line late, he made the shot he had to in order to give the Knicks the win after the team blew a late lead. He caught the ball in a good spot on the floor and got a high-percentage shot off on Andrew Wiggins, who despite being a good defender, gave him too much room.

Not to be forgotten is Anthony’s deflection on the Wolves’ final inbounds pass that helped the clock run out to close out the game. Anthony has been much maligned this year (and rightly so) for his poor defense, so he deserves credit for active hands when the game was on the line.

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In the first half, Anthony took just five shots, making two. With the other talent the Knicks have, there’s nothing wrong with that. There were a few times early in the game when Anthony got the ball in the high post and didn’t like what he saw. Towns was coming over to his side of the lane to prevent the drive, and Wiggins was crowding him. No one is better at defending isolation than coach Tom Thibodeau, and it was clear his Wolves were ready to deal with Anthony wing isolations.

Instead, Anthony called for a screen or moved the ball, and the Knicks found a better shot elsewhere. That’s a good thing. New York shot 53 percent in the first half and scored 58 points while leading by nine. The offense was clicking. Porzingis was a focus early and had 16 first-half points on only 12 shots.

Anthony has been in a bit of shooting funk he needs to get out of, which will happen to every player, but last night he did what was required for the team to win.

Knicks Short-Handed On Wing

With Courtney Lee hurting his ankle against the Wolves, Lance Thomas already out with myriad injuries and Justin Holiday dealing with a bad shoulder, the Knicks are now short on players who can play the two and three. Only Mindaugas Kuzminskas, who is playing well, and Sasha Vujacic remain healthy at those positions.

Until these guys get well, any hope of playing smaller more often with Anthony at the four will have to be shelved. Vujacic will also have to give the team meaningful minutes at shooting guard. Ron Baker is also on the bench, and the team can consider calling up Chasson Randle from Westchester to add some scoring punch as well.

Another Back-To-Back

The Knicks failed to close out a very winnable back-to-back against the Hornets last week, and they’ll have another chance against the Wolves on Friday night. The difference? This time the second game will be at Madison Square Garden. The Porzingis-Towns rematch will be fun to watch.

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For all things Knicks, follow John on Twitter at @Schmeelk