MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The New York Knicks have designs on being a better and more active 3-point shooting team.
Julius Randle showed them how it's done on Monday night.
Randle scored 31 points with a career high-tying eight of New York's season-high 19 3-pointers, and the Knicks cruised to a 120-107 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
“I think part of it is guys playing free, not second-guessing, just trusting themselves,” Randle said.
Jalen Brunson pitched in 23 points and eight assists, RJ Barrett had 22 points and Obi Toppin scored 15 points off the bench for the Knicks (5-5), who built a lead as big as 27 points in the second quarter. Barrett interrupted a postgame interview with Randle, pretending to be a TV reporter as he joked that “Steph Curry” was actually the eight-year veteran's middle name.
“He shot ’em up tonight. They were all pretty. He was big-time for us,” Brunson said.
Karl-Anthony Towns scored 25 points on 9-for-12 shooting with 13 rebounds and seven assists for the Timberwolves (5-6), who faced a double-digit deficit over the final 35-plus minutes of the game. Anthony Edwards added 16 points and nine rebounds.
“We just play soft, man. Like, every bump, we're flying all over the place, including myself,” Edwards said. "Teams just coming in like, ‘We’re going to take their heart,’ and that’s what’s going on. We’re down 20 every game! We’ve got to figure it out.”
Timberwolves coach Chris Finch gave a few of his reserves some extended time in search of a spark, and a layup by Austin Rivers cut the lead to 105-91 with 9:32 to go. But Randle hit a step-back 3-pointer just a few seconds after re-entering for the final stretch to make it 108-92.
“If we play with speed and we share the ball, we’re going to score plenty of points,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said.
With center Rudy Gobert in the COVID-19 health and safety protocols and out for a second straight game, the Wolves gave up a pair of 38-point quarters to finish the first half in a huge hole at 76-52 after hearing heavy boos from the home crowd.
The Timberwolves stopped a three-game losing streak by beating Houston on Saturday with 61% shooting from the floor in Gobert's first absence, but none of that ball movement carried over. Neither did an active defense.
“We just ain’t making it hard for the other team, I feel like," Edwards said. "They’re just coming down the court, getting into their sets."
The Knicks, who played their second game without injured center Mitchell Robinson, fared just fine on defense without their primary rim protector. They tightened up on the perimeter, too, after allowing a franchise-record 27 3-pointers in a 133-118 loss to Boston on Saturday.
ORANGE (AND BLUE) JULIUS
Randle went 5 for 7 from 3-point range in the first quarter. The Knicks went 10 for 19 from deep, their most makes in the opening period according to Sportradar since such data was tracked starting in 1996. Their franchise high for any quarter was 11 made 3-pointers in the second quarter against the Celtics on April 17, 2012, per Sportradar.
“Our thing is not to hesitate," Brunson said. "Just go out there and play.”
The Knicks started Jericho Sims at center, after 7-footer Isaiah Hartenstein took the first replacement assignment for Robinson against the Celtics on Saturday. Sims is a native of Minneapolis, a product of Cristo Rey High School less than 3 miles from Target Center.
The 6-foot-10 Sims, who had four points, four rebounds and five fouls in 17 minutes, was a second-round draft pick out of Texas in 2021. His parents met with Thibodeau in the hallway after the game as the coach raved about their son.
Knicks: The reserves went 10 for 10 on free throws for the Knicks, who were 23 for 25 as a team from the foul line. ... Barrett and Toppin each made three 3-pointers.
Timberwolves: Kyle Anderson got his second straight start with Gobert sidelined and Towns moved back to the middle. ... Rivers had a season-high nine points in 16 minutes, and the Wolves were a plus-11 with him on the court.
Knicks: Visit the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday.
Timberwolves: Host the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday.
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Dave Campbell, The Associated Press