Tom Thibodeau wished he wasn’t so prescient when it came to the Timberwolves, his former club.
“It’s really a loaded roster,’’ Thibodeau said before Wednesday night’s game about the league’s worst team. “No lead is safe against them.”
And so it was. The Knicks blew an 18-point lead in the first half, recovered and took a 13-point lead early into the fourth quarter before dropping an awful 102-101 decision at Target Center.
It was the first time in seven weeks that the Knicks have lost two consecutive games.
RJ Barrett scored 23 points but folded down the stretch with a turnover and missed short a potential game-winning 15-foot jumper with two seconds left.
Julius Randle scored 24 points but missed a foul-line jumper with 10 seconds left and the Knicks down 1. Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns got the rebound but lost it and the Knicks won the scramble for the rebound, calling timeout with 5.1 seconds left.
It was a bitter defeat in Thibodeau’s first return to Minnesota since getting fired in 2019 and his team fell to 24-24. The Knicks were outscored 32-20 in the final period.
Minnesota won it on Malik Beasley’s 3-pointer with 37 seconds left — its first lead since the first period.
The Wolves, who have fallen apart since Thibodeau’s ouster in January 2019, have one big night to celebrate, improving to 12-36, still owners of the NBA’s worst record.
Ex-Timberwolves forward Taj Gibson, the Knicks backup center, nearly keyed the win with three blocks, seven rebounds and a big go-ahead bucket with 50 seconds left after he caught a Elfrid Payton’s blocked shot in midair and scored.
The Knicks, off an 18-3 run, built a 39-21 lead early in the second quarter before the Wolves roared back. And, as predicted, Minnesota never stopped coming.