MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Timberwolves got virtually nothing from their top three scorers on Sunday night. Thanks to their depth, it wasn’t a problem.
Taj Gibson scored a season-high 25 points, Jeff Teague added 20 points and 10 assists, and the Timberwolves beat the New York Knicks 103-92 despite playing without All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns.
In all, five Timberwolves scored in double figures as they shared the scoring responsibilities in the absence of Towns, Derrick Rose and Andrew Wiggins. Towns missed the game with right knee inflammation, while Wiggins sat out with a thigh contusion.
Rose, the Wolves’ second-leading scorer, had four points and played just eight minutes, all in the first half, as coach Ryan Saunders chose to rest the veteran against the team with the NBA’s worst record
“We expect to do that because we have a good team. It may not show all the time but we have guys capable of having big nights,” Gibson said. “It’s part of being a professional basketball player. You just have to know your role and do whatever the team needs, and if given a night that you need to step up and play an even bigger role, just be prepared.”
Rookie Keita Bates-Diop scored a career-high 18 points, while Tyus Jones added 13 and Dario Saric 11 for Minnesota, which has won six straight home games.
Damyean Dotson led New York with 26 points on 10-for-19 shooting. Allonzo Trier added 15, Dennis Smith Jr. and Kevin Knox each had 13 and Mitchell Robinson had eight points, 10 rebounds, and five blocks.
“We missed a lot of easy shots around the rim early on, and that really, really hurt us, especially on the road,” said Knicks coach David Fizdale. “You can’t miss those.”
The Knicks kept it close for 1 1/2 quarters, taking their last lead at 30-27 on Trier’s driving layup with 8:49 left in the half. But Minnesota answered with a quick 8-0 run that included a 3-pointer by Anthony Tolliver and Gibson’s dunk.
Teague drained a 30-footer to beat the halftime buzzer as Minnesota took a 55-45 lead into the break.
Gibson started the third quarter with a dunk and a three-point play as he once again played a key role picking up the scoring slack with Towns out of the lineup. In the three games Towns has missed, Gibson has scored 25, 20, and 19 points — his three highest-scoring games of the season.
“He’s really a stabilizer for us,” Saunders said. “You can say that in whatever role he’s in.”
Knicks: Dotson topped the 20-point mark for the sixth time this season. … Robinson posted a block in his 24th straight game, the longest streak for a Knicks rookie since Patrick Ewing’s 28-game streak in 1985-86. … DeAndre Jordan, who is second in the NBA at 13.5 rebounds per game, finished with just two points and five boards in 15 minutes.
Timberwolves: It was the first game Minnesota has played without either Towns or Wiggins since April 16, 2014. … Bates-Diop has started Minnesota’s last two games in place of Wiggins and has scored in double figures in both. “People now are starting to realize Keita can play,” Gibson said. … Minnesota is 3-8 in the second game of back-to-backs but 3-0 at home.
TURNING IT OVER
The Knicks committed 19 turnovers that led to 27 Timberwolves points. The last time the teams met, on Feb. 22 in New York, the Wolves forced 20 turnovers in a 115-104 victory. The Knicks only have one game with more turnovers all season.
“We understand that this is what this team does,” Fizdale said. “They get a lot of steals, a lot of deflections. Interior passes kill you. They steal those passes, and for whatever reason we kept burning our hand on the stove trying to make those passes. And 19 turnovers was the result.”
Meanwhile, after giving up 71 points in the first half against Washington on Saturday night, the Timberwolves clamped down and didn’t allow more than 28 points in any of the next six quarters. Teague credited Saunders with righting the ship.
“In the first half of the last game, there was a lot of points,” Teague said. “Ryan came in and got on us, and in the second half the defense was great, and it carried over to tonight.”