This one, perhaps, wasn’t as pretty as recent Timberwolves victories have been.
But that’s OK.
The defense, to which many odes recently have been written, waited until the fourth quarter Friday against New York to show up after allowing the Knicks to shoot north of 55 percent much of the night.
But it did.
With a boost from the bench and a big start to the fourth quarter, the Wolves pulled away from the Knicks, winning 118-108 before an announced 18,978, the sixth consecutive sellout at Target Center.
It was, in order:
• The team’s fourth consecutive win — its five-game homestand ends Sunday against Portland — and its 11th in 14 games.
• The Wolves’ seventh consecutive home victory, their longest such streak since the 2003-04 season.
On this night, at least, one quarter was enough.
“I think it speaks volumes that we didn’t play our best tonight, especially defensively, and we found a way to scratch out a win,” said center Karl-Anthony Towns, who had 23 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists. Had Jeff Teague hit an open three in the closing seconds, Towns would have had his second career triple-double.
As has been the case for a while now, the Wolves offense was pretty good, start to finish.
All five starters scored in double figures (Taj Gibson had 18 points and Andrew Wiggins 16). Nemanja Bjelica, Jamal Crawford and Gorgui Dieng each scored 10 points off the bench.
And the defense? Good when it mattered.
And it mattered at the start of the fourth quarter, with the Wolves clinging to a one-point lead. But that’s when a lineup of Towns, Dieng, Crawford, Bjelica and Tyus Jones took the game over.
It started right away. The ball went from Bjelica to Towns, and back again. Towns already was celebrating as Bjelica’s three-pointer was still in the air.
“Once he passed it to me, he wanted it right back,” Towns said. “I tapped it back to him and started celebrating.”
Those were the first three points in a 24-6 run to start the quarter. Jones’ 26-footer gave the Wolves a 14-point lead before he and Bjelica returned to the bench. Not long after, a 28-footer from Jamal Crawford extended the lead to 19.
The Knicks, losers of nine of 11, got 18 points from Jarrett Jack, 17 from Kristaps Porzingis and 16 from Tim Hardaway Jr. off the bench in his return from injury. New York shot 57.6 percent through three quarters but just 7-for-17 in the fourth (41.2).
“We started the game with not much energy,” Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said. “But we found a way to win in the end. I liked us offensively a lot. We made a lot of good plays, unselfish plays. Defensively we didn’t get it going until the fourth quarter.”
But that’s OK.
They continue to win, even when Jimmy Butler (13 points) wasn’t an offensive focal point. Eight of the nine Wolves who played scored 10 or more points and had multiple assists.
The victory pushed the Wolves, fourth in the Western Conference, within a half-game of No. 3 San Antonio, which plays Saturday night. And it moved the Wolves five full games clear of Portland and Oklahoma City.
“We’re understanding what we need to do to win games,” Gibson said. “We’re trying to keep this homestand on a positive note, keep pushing the ball, do whatever it takes to win games.”
And the wins keep coming. The Wolves will try to finish off a perfect homestand Sunday.
“We have a good chemistry right now,” Towns said.
wolves 118, New york 108
Sunday: 8 p.m. vs. Portland (ESPN, FSN Plus)