Wolves stay hot atop West, top Knicks 117-100 for ninth win in 10 games

Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune/Star Tribune/TNS

The Timberwolves' decision two summers ago to go big in an NBA seemingly shrinking by the season now has them 10-3 and best in the West after Monday's 117-100 victory over New York at Target Center.

It was their ninth victory in their last 10 games.

On Saturday in New Orleans, big Karl-Anthony Towns hit the game winner in the final seconds.

On Monday, bigger Rudy Gobert provided the pulse with a dunking demonstration on a night he went 7-for-7 from the field but 2-for-7 from the free-throw line.

Gobert played 26 minutes, scored 16 points and had seven rebounds and two blocked shots before he was removed with three minutes left and the game assured.

The Wolves at 6-0 remained unbeaten at home on Monday after a five-game road trip in which they went 4-1 out west and down south.

The Wolves' expensive July 2022 blockbuster trade paired Gobert with Towns, an experiment that floundered last season partly because of injury and unfamiliarity.

Now nearly a month into the season, the Wolves' size and skill has helped push them to that 10-3, first-place season start. Towns was one of four other Wolves who scored in double figures Monday on a night when the team outscored the Knicks 35-19 in a decisive third quarter.

They led by as many as 22 points after they held a 58-56 halftime lead.

Towns finished with 20 points while Anthony Edwards led all Wolves with 23 while Mike Conley and reserve Nickell-Alexander Walker each had 11.

The Wolves returned home Monday 4-1 from a five-game road trip that included consecutive victories at Golden State and a singular loss at Phoenix.

BOXSCORE: Timberwolves 117, New York 100

They also came back tied with Sacramento – both 2-0, with two games remaining — for the West's Group C lead in the NBA's inaugural in-season tournament.

It's a fast start many of their fans probably expected last season.

"In fairness to them, there's going to be an adjustment period and they had injuries," Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said before Monday's game.. "That's a big part of it. I think Chris (Finch) has done a terrific job with them. They're bringing the best out of each other and obviously the way Anthony Edwareds has played brings them to a different level."

The Wolves had the league's third-best defensive rating as well.

"Their defense is elite," Thibodeau said. "They've got size, athleticism. Edwards and Towns are very explosive. They're strong on both sides of the ball. Their record tells you how good they are."

Thibodeau was back at Target Center and in Minnesota, where owner Glen Taylor hired him as president and head coach for two-plus seasons ending in 2019. He also was an assistant coach for Bill Musselman in the team's expansion seasons starting in 1989.

"I still have a lot of friends here," Thibodeau said. "It's great to see the success they're having. I know Glen. If he sells the team, it's great for him. I still have a lot of friends in the organization. I wish them luck, just not."

The Wolves on Monday slipped one bad habit that had proven troublesome recently: A slow start to games.

This time, they led 9-4, 17-12 and 29-23 by late in the first quarter.The Wolves led by as many as 11 points before halftime, allowing the Knicks to take a very brief 54-53 lead with 3:35 left in the second quarter. The Wolves reclaimed the lead by a bucket – 58-56 – by halftime.