Knicks meltdown spoils Thibodeau’s return in Minnesota

What should have been a dream return for Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota turned into his worst nightmare.

Malik Beasley, one of the New York Knicks’ targets in the offseason, haunted them with a clutch three to complete the Timberwolves’ 102-101 comeback win on Thursday night.

The Knicks’ bitter loss spoiled Thibodeau’s first game back at the Target Center since his unceremonious firing in 2019.

Beasley, a restricted free agent in the offseason, agreed to return to Minnesota with a fresh four-year, $60-million. Tonight, he proved he was deserving after hitting the game’s biggest shot.

With the Knicks clinging to a two-point lead, they collapsed on Anthony Edwards, who led the Timberwolves’ ferocious comeback from 13 points down in the fourth quarter. The top overall pick Edwards had the presence of mind of finding a wide-open Beasley at the left elbow beyond the arc.

Beasley’s go-ahead three-pointer with 37.8 seconds left was Minnesota’s first lead since a 7-6 score early in the first quarter.

Julius Randle and RJ Barrett missed their shots as the league-worst Timberwolves escaped with just their 12th win of the season.

It was the most disappointing loss for the Knicks so far this season as they blew an 18-point lead and led for 46 minutes.

Alec Burks and Barrett’s outside snipings opened up a 39-21 lead for the Knicks in the second quarter. But the Timberwolves quickly recovered and went into halftime only trailing by one, 51-50, much to the chagrin of Thibodeau, who was shaking his head heading into the locker room.

Randle poured in 10 points in the third quarter as the Knicks looked rejuvenated. They led by 11 after three quarters.

A Taj Gibson dunk gave the Knicks a 90-77 lead with 8:33 to go in the fourth quarter. But Edwards, who played with so much poise and confidence, willed the Timberwolves back with 11 of his 24 points and two key steals.

Randle finished with his 14th 20-10-5 game of the season, tallying 26 points, 12 rebounds, and six assists after a slow start. Only Bob McAdoo had more in a season for the Knicks (17 in 1977-78 season). But it all went for naught as he missed a potential game-winner with 11.4 seconds left.

Barrett, who rebounded from a subpar game against Miami, had 23 points but his poor play down the stretch hastened the Knicks’ downfall.

He lazily fouled Edwards at the onset of the Timberwolves’ fourth-quarter run for an and-one. Then he misfired a stepback jumper with 1.4 seconds left.

“It’s disappointing. We had a big lead in the first half, and we didn’t take care of it. We repeated it,” Thibodeau said. “It’s disappointing because of the turnovers. We beat ourselves.”

The Knicks had 17 turnovers, five of them they committed in the fourth quarter.

Gibson played solid off the bench for Thibodeau and almost ended up as the hero. He had seven points, eight rebounds, and three blocks. He caught an Elfrid Payton blocked shot and scored the Knicks’ last basket to push it to 101-99 with 55 seconds left.

The much-anticipated showdown between the recent NBA Rookie Ladder’s no. 2 Edwards and no. 3 Immanuel Quickley turned into a one-sided affair. Edwards came up with a complete game, leading the Timberwolves in scoring while adding two rebounds, three assists, three steals, and three blocks.

On the other hand, Quickley was held scoreless in 13 minutes. The Knicks rookie missed all four of his attempts but got three boards, two assists, and a steal.

Beasley scored 20 points with five triples. Karl-Anthony Towns finished with a double-double (18 points, 17 rebounds, six assists, and two blocks) while the Timberwolves’ other rookie Jaden McDaniels fired four treys en route to 18 points, four points off his career-high.

The Knicks’ second straight loss dropped them to sixth place in the East with an even 24-24 slate. Miami Heat, who beat them last Tuesday, moved up to fifth despite having a similar 24-24 record by virtue of sweeping their regular-season matchup.

The Knicks will host their former cornerstone Kristaps Porzingis, along with rising superstar Luka Doncic and the surging Dallas Mavericks on Friday.

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