The Timberwolves' decision two summers ago to go big in an NBA seemingly shrinking by the season now has them 10-3 and best in the West after Monday's 117-100 victory over New York at Target Center.
On Saturday in New Orleans, big Karl-Anthony Towns hit the game-winner in the final seconds.
On Monday, bigger Rudy Gobert provided the pulse, energizing another home sellout crowd with his demonstrations on dunking and defense. He went 7-for-7 from the field, 2-for-7 from the free-throw line and clamped down active Knicks center Mitchell Robinson, particularly during a decisive third quarter when the Wolves outscored New York 35-19.
The Wolves' 6-0 home record so far ties a club record for most consecutive victories to start a season. The 1998-99 Wolves also started by winning six in a row.
The only other Wolves team to win 10 times in its first 13 games was in 2001-02.
Gobert played 26 minutes, scored 16 points, grabbed seven rebounds and blocked two shots before he left the game in the final three minutes to the cheers of a crowd that appreciated his effort.
"Our building has been great all year," Wolves coach Chris Finch said. "I'm so really pleased our fans are enjoying Rudy's play this year. He is playing at an all-defensive-team level and doing all the dirty work as well. I think it's really resonating with the crowd. I'm really proud of that and pleased for him."
Robinson had five offensive rebounds in the first half, only two after halftime.
"Rudy was awesome again, controlling the paint," Finch said. "From a deterrence point of view, they didn't want to go in while he was there."
Gobert said a touch foul called on him early in the game threw him off.
"I wasn't sure if I should stay physical," he said. "Second half, I just say be me, be physical."
After a recent home game, Gobert said the chants for him needed to be louder. Was Monday loud enough?
"It was good, good to get a little love," Gobert said. "I try to be the best Rudy I can be and I'm going to keep doing so. It's cool to see the fans appreciate the effort I bring."
Anthony Edwards led the Wolves with 23 points. Three other players scored in double digits, including reserve Nickeil Alexander-Walker, who scored 11 and played 33 minutes — much of it defending Knicks star Jalen Brunson, who led all scorers with 25 points — after Jaden McDaniels left the game injured after fewer than five minutes.
Finch afterward said he didn't know the extent of McDaniels' injury.
The Wolves' expensive July 2022 blockbuster trade paired Gobert with Towns, an experiment that floundered last season partly because of injury and unfamiliarity. This 10-3 start is what many of their fans probably expected last season.
"In fairness to them, there's going to be an adjustment period and they had injuries," Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said before Monday's game. "That's a big part of it. I think Chris [Finch] has done a terrific job with them. They're bringing the best out of each other and obviously the way Anthony Edwards has played brings them to a different level."
The Wolves had the league's third-best defensive rating as well.
"Their defense is elite," Thibodeau said. "They've got size, athleticism. Edwards and Towns are very explosive. … Their record tells you how good they are."
Thibodeau was back at Target Center and in Minnesota, where owner Glen Taylor hired him as president and head coach for two-plus seasons ending in 2019. He also was an assistant coach for Bill Musselman in the team's expansion seasons starting in 1989.
"I still have a lot of friends here," Thibodeau said. "It's great to see the success they're having. I know Glen. … I still have a lot of friends in the organization. I wish them luck, just not tonight."