NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Wednesday, December 16, 2015, 10:17 PM
Rookies Karl-Anthony Towns (r.) of the Timberwolves and Knicks’ Kristaps Porzingis fight for position under the glass. Towns scores 25 points, but Porzingis’ seven blocks help the Knicks get the win.
Karl-Anthony Towns’ first impression of Kristaps Porzingis was a natural reaction of meeting a 7-3 Latvian, an imposing sight for the unacquainted.
“I’ve never had to look up at somebody,” said the 6-11 Towns about their time together at the NBA draft. “So I was fairly surprised to not be the tallest person in the room.”
Towns witnessed that height in action on Wednesday, as a clash between the NBA’s top rookies quickly evolved into a block party for Porzingis, a Carmelo Anthony gem and a New York victory at the Garden, 107-102, over the young T-Wolves.
Porzingis logged seven blocks – including two emphatic rejections Towns’ attempts — complimenting Anthony’s near triple-double (20 points, 15 rebounds, nine assists) and Arron Afflalo’s scoring surge (29 points). If the two early frontrunners for Rookie of the Year engage in a career rivalry – as the pregame narrative suggested – Round 1 statistically went to Towns and in the win column to Porzingis. New York’s 20-year-old rebounded from a difficult three-game road trip to score 11 points with six rebounds, but struggled in the second half and shot 4-of-14 overall.
Towns, the first overall pick in July, countered with 25 points and 10 rebounds, ultimately outplaying his rookie counterpart. The game ended, however, with Porzingis blocking Towns’ 3-point shot at the buzzer.
“You’re going to see this guy for the next 12 years, so get used to it,” T-Wolves coach Sam Mitchell said of the two rookies. “It’s the same thing I told Kevin (Garnett) his rookie year when we played (Pau) Gasol and Tim Duncan. I was like, ‘Don’t get too friendly with him because you’re all going to be fighting for the same things.’”
Towns scoffed at the idea that his rivalry with Porzingis would be limited to 12 years — “I hope it’s 20-plus, I ain’t planning on retiring” – while Mitchell noted that geographical circumstances aren’t conducive to a heated NBA co-existence.
“Because we’re in different conferences. They only see each other twice (per season),” Minnesota’s coach said. “They’re not fighting for All-Star berths. They’re not fighting for playoff berths. It’s just another good big man that he has to see.”
The Knicks (12-14) caught a little break Wednesday because the T-Wolves (9-16) played the night prior in Minnesota, landing in New York at around 2 a.m. the day of the game. Kevin Garnett was inactive due to rest on the second game of a back-to-back. Derek Fisher’s squad, meanwhile, had three days off for the first time this season, and it jumped on the visitors with a 20-point lead at halftime.
Minnesota, led by Towns and Andrew Wiggins (23 points), hung around in the fourth quarter after overcoming a 22-point deficit in the third quarter, but watched Afflalo nail four straight free throws down the stretch. Ricky Rubio came impressively close to a quadruple-double, with nine points, 12 assists, 10 rebounds and eight steals. Afflalo led all scorers with his season-high output.
So it wasn’t a triumphant homecoming for Towns, the Piscataway, NJ, native who grew up a Knicks fan.
Carmelo Anthony nearly goes for triple double: 20 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists.
Towns said Wednesday was just his second time at the Garden, though.
“For me growing up, I never really had enough time nor money to come to a game,” he said.
But he brought the whole crew on Wednesday, including his sister Lachelle.
“She doesn’t really get a chance to leave the house (because she has two kids). I think this is the first NBA game she’s going to see me play,” Towns said. “I know growing up my sister was the one who played basketball against me every day, one-on-one. I remember we used to have games where we’d fight outside about who won the game and hit as many shots. So my sister also being a good basketball talent in college. So it’s going to awesome for her to see her brother doing the dream that he had planned for himself.”