NEW YORK (AP) — Karl-Anthony Towns will finish with a winning record for the first time in his career.
His Minnesota Timberwolves have much bigger goals, and a rough road ahead to achieve them.
“We have a lot more work to do and we have a lot more games in front of us that are just as important as tonight,” Towns said.
The All-Star center had 24 points and 13 rebounds, and the Timberwolves clinched their first winning record in 13 years by beating the New York Knicks 108-104 on Friday night.
Taj Gibson scored 18 points, and Andrew Wiggins added 17 points and 11 rebounds to help the Wolves improve to 42-31. They came into the night tied with Utah for seventh place in the Western Conference. Nemanja Bjelica also had 17 points.
“I was 110 percent nervous because I knew the stakes,” Gibson said. “I knew this was one of those games you really don’t want to let go, just knowing how things are going in the standings and knowing there’s so many games left to play.”
The Timberwolves hadn’t finished with a winning record since going 44-38 in 2004-05, the season after their last playoff appearance. Minnesota is trying to end the NBA’s longest current postseason drought.
“We’re trying to change things here,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We have to do it game by game, day by day and not skip over anything.”
Tim Hardaway Jr. scored a career-high 39 points for the Knicks, who have dropped two in a row after winning two straight following a nine-game losing streak. Enes Kanter had 11 points and 15 rebounds.
Minnesota led by as much as 16 and never trailed in the first half, but ended up with a tough time.
The Knicks cut it to nine by halftime, then came back with Trey Burke and Frank Ntilikina as the starting backcourt and an unusually strong start to the third quarter that mostly gives them fits.
Hardaway opened it with a 3-pointer a converted a go-ahead three-point play during what became a 15-0 run to open the second half and give New York a 63-57 lead. He scored 19 in the third quarter.
“Just trying to do anything I can to put my team on my back and just carry the young guys out there on the floor,” Hardaway said. “I think we did a great job of getting stops defensively and using that to our advantage and pushing the pace.”
Jamal Crawford settled the Wolves down and shot them back into the lead midway through the period, and Minnesota took an 84-82 edge to the fourth.
The Wolves regained control with a 14-5 surge that made it 101-89 on Towns’ three-point play, but Hardaway had one last push that cut it to four in the closing minutes.
Timberwolves: Derrick Rose didn’t travel with the Wolves because of a sprained right ankle. … Minnesota had lost all three road games against Atlantic Division teams.
Knicks: G Emmanuel Mudiay, acquired from Denver at the trade deadline, started and played the first five minutes, then didn’t return. He was scoreless and the Knicks were outscored by eight points while he was in. … Former Knicks guard Nate Robinson attended the game … New York has lost eight straight against Washington, its next opponent. The Knicks visit the Wizards on Sunday.
Other than a visit to Philadelphia on Saturday, the Wolves began a soft part of their schedule with Friday’s game. The three after Philadelphia are against Memphis, Atlanta and Dallas, who like the Knicks, are all among the worst teams in the league.
PUTTING UP THE POINTS
Hardaway had has fifth 30-point game of the season. He had scored 30 only twice in 281 career games coming this season.
“I think he knows he’s got to score some points for us,” Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said. “Without (Kristaps Porzingis) out there, not only does KP score points, he draws the attention, and so it opens up for a lot of other guys to get shots off and get some points. So, without that, Tim’s got to.”
Timberwolves: Visit Philadelphia on Saturday.
Knicks: Visit Washington on Sunday.
(© Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)