Kemba Walker returned to action and to the starting lineup Tuesday night. But it was the ending, not the start, that showed the New York product and sent Madison Square Garden audiences crazy.
After 10 at the break, the Knicks made a comeback in the second half. And it was Walker who took over with the kind of accomplishments he had accomplished in Garden since his high school days, associating himself with three three-point field goals with the game in balance, repeating the long “Cardiac Kemba” days. since.
But the celebration was early as the Timberwolves continued to fight for the final buzzer. And with 29.3 seconds left, Karl-Anthony Towns converted a hard layup, pulled a foul on Julius Randle and completed a game with three points, giving Minnesota the lead back, and they held on to a 112-110 victory.
“It’s the type of game that keeps you awake at night,” Evan Fournier said. “You have a little desire [expletive] in the morning afterwards, but that’s the league we’re in. “
Randle went to the line with 24.3 seconds left and a chance to equalize the match, but missed the first free throw before making the second to reduce the deficit to one. Towns then blocked Evan Fournier’s drive, and Alec Burks missed a potential game-winning shot as time ran out.
Fournier led the Knicks with 27 points, Randle had 21 points, nine rebounds, nine assists and four blocks, and Walker had a total of 19 points. RJ Barrett had 17 points but seven turnovers.
“It’s a tough fight,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Did not get it done down the stretch.
“Just turnovers. We had some expensive turnovers in the last two minutes. They’re behind and they gamble for the ball. And they’re going to protect the ball. There’s a physique in what they do. And so you have to be strong and “Understand what’s going on in the game and how it’s being judged. The intensity in the fourth quarter is different from the first three quarters, and we need to understand that.”
Down the stretch, the Knicks went with a small lineup after Mitchell Robinson and Taj Gibson made a mistake, Thibodeau put the Burks in the game instead of another big man, and he joined Randle, Barrett, Fournier and Walkers as a closing lineup . Randle was not big enough to stop Towns when it spoke, the New Jersey native finished with 20 points.
Even with the small lineup, the Knicks made three turnovers in the final two minutes – two by Barrett and one by Fournier. And Walker’s magic escaped.
Throughout the first half, the Knicks were overtaken and outplayed, and it seemed like a moral victory for the Knicks that they were only down by 10 points. Randle and Barrett totaled more (seven) than field goals (six).
But when the second half began, the Knicks trudged the same starting lineup, but looked like a completely different team. Walker, returning to the starting lineup after nine fights on the sidelines, got them started with his shooting and energy.
By the end of the third quarter, the Knicks had 40 points and turned the 10-point deficit into a five-point lead. But from the final minute of the third quarter to the start of the fourth, the Timberwolves scored 11 equal points to turn a 91-82 deficit into a 93-91 lead.
“It felt great,” Fournier said of Walker’s return. “He brings speed. He brings an attitude to our team. And he always smiles, he has an amazing attitude, he has an amazing spirit. It’s always nice to see Kemba. With him on the floor, it adds another weapon.”