Anthony Edwards took over late down the stretch for the Timberwolves in their 102-101 victory over the Knicks.
But on a night the Knicks focused heavily on Karl-Anthony Towns, it was another Wolves rookie who helped keep them afloat most of the rest of the night.
Jaden McDaniels continued his ascension with another strong performance, totaling 18 points to go with five rebounds and three assists. When the Wolves were struggling to score (they had 19 points in the first quarter) it was McDaniels who got the ball going through the hoop with four first-half threes.
"I would say it's all of us as a team just moving the ball, me kind of being at the end of it at the right spot at the right time," McDaniels said. "Also it's just playing team basketball and [I was just] able to step up and make the shots is big for us."
McDaniels did all this while having the tough task of guarding the Knicks' best player, Julius Randle. Randle finished with 26 points and 12 rebounds, but that didn't stop coach Chris Finch from heaping praise on the job McDaniels did on the All-Star. Randle is one of multiple top players, like Brooklyn's James Harden and Dallas' Luka Doncic, that McDaniels has had to guard lately.
"What he's doing at the defensive end of the floor right now is special. ... It's as special as what we're seeing 'Ant' can do on offense. It's as special as anything you've seen," Finch said. "I can't remember a 19-year-old defender [McDaniels is 20], rookie, coming in having this type of impact, battling the multitude of positions and making a great impact for his team and his teammates."
Added Karl-Anthony Towns: "Jaden was special the whole game. He played amazing defense, hit shots."
McDaniels' three-point shooting helped the Wolves stay within one at the half, and he helped start their last push that ultimately proves successful in the fourth quarter. The Wolves were just kind of going through the motions early in the fourth when McDaniels took former Wolves forward Taj Gibson off the dribble from the top of the key. McDaniels blew past Gibson for a dunk that sent a jolt of energy into the Wolves. The Wolves scored 10 of the next 12 points.
McDaniels was asked after the game about his demeanor on and off the court. In postgame interviews he's typically smiling and is soft-spoken. On the court he plays with an emotionless, sometimes stern-looking face.
"I'll say I'm just being passionate about the game and just being in the mindset I have, I have kind of a straight face, but I'm happy all the time ..." McDaniels said. I'll say it's just being in the game it be so intense, I be so locked in, just really no time to smile until after we win."
He was smiling Wednesday.