New York Knicks vs. Minnesota Timberwolves Pick & Prediction JANUARY 1st 2024

The New York Knicks haven’t won a championship since the calendar said 1973. The Minnesota Timberwolves have never won a title in their 35-season existence.

The first two teams to tip off in 2024 will each take the court on Monday in New York with hopes that this might finally be their year.

The new-look Knicks closed out a winless three-game road trip Saturday with a 140-126 loss to the Indiana Pacers. The Timberwolves concluded a successful December with a 108-106 victory over the visiting Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday.

The Knicks fell hours after completing a blockbuster trade in which they acquired OG Anunoby, Precious Achiuwa and Malachi Flynn from the Toronto Raptors in exchange for starting guard RJ Barrett and reserve guard Immanuel Quickley.

Barrett averaged 18.1 points and 5.3 rebounds per game while starting all but one of the 297 games he played for the Knicks over the last five seasons. Quickley established himself as one of the best sixth men in the league by scoring in double figures off the bench 137 times in three-plus seasons.

Anunoby likely will replace Barrett in the starting lineup while helping to shore up the interior offense and defense for the Knicks. The seventh-year veteran is shooting a career-high 60.8 percent on 2-point field goals and is averaging one steal per game a year after leading the NBA with 1.9 steals per game.

“I trust Leon. I have great respect for how he approaches things,” Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau said, referring to New York president Leon Rose. “There’s a lot of thought that goes into it. So they’re not easy (decisions) and there’s calculated risks that you have to take.”

The Timberwolves, who are on pace to win a franchise-record 63 games, may be in a position to take similar risks over the next several weeks. Minnesota has advanced beyond the first round just once and have made the playoffs only three times since reaching the Western Conference finals in the spring of 2004.

The Timberwolves’ success this season has been fueled by defense — they are allowing an NBA-low 107.4 points per game — and an ability to win tight games. Minnesota won six games by fewer than 10 points in December, when it went 10-3, and is 12-1 this season in games decided by 10 points or fewer.

In addition, while the Timberwolves are averaging 14.7 turnovers a game, they rank 11th in the NBA in free throw percentage (79.5 percent). Guard Anthony Edwards is averaged 5.6 made free throws a game and has gone to the foul line at least 11 times in three straight games.

“Our defense has stayed consistent, clutch shot-making’s been big — we’ve made shots in close games,” Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch said. “We’ve not been able to sustain leads that we’re building — whether seven-, eight-, nine-point leads — just because of the turnovers. We’re getting to the free throw line.

“‘Ant’ in particular is getting to the free throw line at a good rate right now. So those things, I think, are pretty sustainable and feel sustainable right now.”

–Field Level Media

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