TOP SCORER. Julius Randle powers New York Knicks’ 112-106 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on January 2, 2024 in New York. KNICKS/NBA PHOTO
OG Anunoby stole the spotlight and hearts of the Madison Square Garden faithful, receiving a warm ovation as he walked to the bench after fouling out.
The night, however, belonged to Julius Randle, who orchestrated a brilliant 39-point performance to secure a 112-106 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday, January 1, 2024 (January 2 Philippine time), in New York.
Anunoby’s arrival in the Big Apple was a recent development, having been part of the trade that sent RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley to the Toronto Raptors.
Despite arriving just a day before the game, the forward made an immediate impact, showcasing his versatility with 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting. His presence, both on offense and defense, contributed to the Knicks’ solid performance.
Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau praised Anunoby’s adaptability, saying, “I thought first game, impressive, really just to be ready and to kind of figure it out like on the fly.” Anunoby’s seamless integration into the team’s system was evident, and his willingness to learn and contribute on short notice earned the respect of his new teammates.
The Timberwolves, led by Anthony Edwards’ 35 points and Karl-Anthony Towns’ 29, attempted a comeback in the fourth quarter, cutting a 22-point deficit down to four. However, Julius Randle emerged as the Knicks’ savior, scoring 11 consecutive points, including a crucial three-point play that sealed the victory with 23 seconds remaining.
Jalen Brunson added 16 points and a career-high 14 assists, showcasing his playmaking abilities in the absence of the traded guards. The Knicks, snapping a three-game losing streak, found a rhythm with their revamped lineup, highlighting the impact of the recent trade.
The game’s turning point came in the second quarter when the Knicks outscored the Timberwolves 38-17, turning a close contest into a comfortable 61-49 lead. An 8-0 run in the third quarter further extended their advantage to 19 points, with Donte DiVincenzo and Anunoby connecting on consecutive 3-pointers.
Anunoby, still learning the Knicks’ plays and terminologies, acknowledged the support of his new teammates. “Even during the game, they were telling me: ‘Go here. Do this,'” he said. The collective effort and communication within the team contributed to a successful debut for the talented forward.
For Randle, playing without longtime teammates Barrett and Quickley felt different, but he emphasized the nature of the league, which demands adaptability and adjustment. Anunoby echoed this sentiment, stating that he needed to focus on the present and figure things out, both on and off the court.
As the Knicks celebrate this hard-fought victory, the combination of Randle’s scoring prowess and Anunoby’s promising debut signals a new chapter for the team. With the trade reshaping their roster, the Knicks look forward to building chemistry and making a strong push in the competitive Eastern Conference.