MINNEAPOLIS — Anthony Edwards scored 11 of his 24 points over the final eight minutes, leading a fierce rally by the Minnesota Timberwolves for a 102-101 victory over former coach Tom Thibodeau and the New York Knicks on Wednesday night.
Karl-Anthony Towns had 18 points and 17 rebounds, and Malik Beasley highlighted his 20 points with the go-ahead 3-pointer with 37 seconds left for the Timberwolves, who outscored the Knicks 22-9 over the final 7:50.
Julius Randle had 26 points, 12 rebounds and six assists for the Knicks, who led by as many as 18 points in the second quarter. R.J. Barrett scored 23 points, but his stepback jumper at the buzzer was short for the chance to win.
Edwards has plenty of room to grow, particularly defensively, but he had three blocks and three steals. He sparked the rally with a swipe of a bad pass by Elfrid Payton, turning into a fast-break layup and a three-point play after a foul by Barrett to cut the lead to 92-85. Edwards drove to the basket, which coach Chris Finch prefers the No. 1 overall draft pick to do, for the tying layup at 99-all with 1:16 left. Taj Gibson’s putback gave the Knicks the lead again, before Beasley took it back.
The Timberwolves first faced Thibodeau in New York on Feb. 21, when coach Ryan Saunders — his successor — was fired following a 103-99 loss to the Knicks and replaced by Finch.
The team with the NBA’s worst record had a respectable performance waiting for Thibodeau, though only Towns and Josh Okogie remain on the roster he had when he was fired on Jan. 6, 2019. The Knicks have the same amount of players from that team with Gibson and Derrick Rose.
The once-woebegone Knicks rank fourth in the league in defensive rating this season under Thibodeau, up from 23rd in 2019-20. The Wolves are 27th.
One player who would’ve fit well with Thibodeau is Jaden McDaniels, the rookie who recently cracked the starting lineup and drew the honor of defending the All-Star Randle for the bulk of the night. McDaniels had 18 points and five rebounds.
Thibodeau was ready with a quip when queried on a pregame video conference call with reporters if this was his first visit to Target Center since his dismissal more than two years ago.
“There’s a lot of arenas that I’ve parted ways with,” he said, straight-faced. “I’m comfortable here. I enjoyed my time here, and it’s great to be back.”
Deferring to the fans and the organization when asked how he hoped his time with Minnesota would be remembered, Thibodeau said, “I’m going to remember the sellouts, and I’m going to remember the playoffs.”
That postseason appearance in 2018 is the only one for the Wolves in the last 17 years.
Knicks: Payton had 17 points and four assists. … Rose was scratched with a sore left ankle. He played in the previous two games after missing 10 straight contests due to COVID-19.
Timberwolves: Ricky Rubio, who was on Thibodeau’s first team in Minnesota in 2016-17, finished with nine points and seven assists. … Okogie was out for a fifth straight game due to COVID-19 protocols.
Knicks: Host Dallas on Friday, before returning to the road for three straight games starting on Saturday in Detroit.
Timberwolves: Play at Memphis on Friday and at Philadelphia on Saturday, when Sixers star Joel Embiid is expected to return from a knee injury.
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