Timberwolves guard Mike Conley dribbles down the court as Knicks...

Timberwolves guard Mike Conley dribbles down the court as Knicks guard Donte DiVincenzo defends during the first half of an NBA game Monday in Minneapolis. Credit: AP/Abbie Parr

MINNEAPOLIS — The Knicks sat patiently through the summer, resisting the urges to swing some big trade to shift the fortunes of the team. They added one new player to the rotation, Donte DiVincenzo, who brought with him a skill set that could have been constructed in a lab by coach Tom Thibodeau, embracing all of the things that the Knicks try to do.

But they are not the only ones. A year ago the Timberwolves were stumbling through the start of the season and there were cries for change. At one point they had lost six straight games and the criticism was mounting for the roster construction and the huge deal they’d made to acquire Rudy Gobert. But coach Chris Finch stuck with the group, and when Mike Conley was added in a trade deadline deal suddenly they seemed to find their form.

And now both teams are using continuity as a calling card. The Knicks came into the meeting Monday night with six wins in their last seven games. The Timberwolves sported a 9-3 record, best in the Western Conference, with eight wins in their last nine games.

“Credit to them,” RJ Barrett said. “They’re doing the right things. They have the right pieces and looks like they’re figuring it out. So, credit to them. A very good team and it’s going to be a fun matchup.

“Things always need time, for sure, but for us, we do the same thing. We work hard. We go out there on the court and it shows.”

Minnesota entered the night ranked third in the NBA in defensive rating and the Knicks were just two spots beyond. The Knicks offense has been carried at times by different players. Jalen Brunson was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week Monday, averaging 28.5 points per game, shooting 54.3% from three-point range and handing out 6.5 assists. Julius Randle was also nominated for the award and RJ Barrett provided the offensive stability earlier in the season.

The Timberwolves have excelled on defense but also have gotten a continuing uphill climb from Anthony Edwards. Karl-Anthony Towns, long rumored to the player most likely to be dealt away, was a nominee for the Western Conference Player of the Week award, scoring 29 points on 10-for-11 shooting with nine assists and the game-winning shot in their last game.

“In fairness to them, there’s going to be an adjustment period, but they had injuries [last season],” Thibodeau said. “That’s a big part of it. I think Chris has done a terrific job with them. They’re bringing the best out of each other, and obviously the way Anthony Edwards has played has brought it to a different level.

“Their defense is elite, size, athleticism, Edwards and Towns are very explosive. Strong on both sides of the ball. So their record tells you how good they are.”

As well as both teams are playing it is still early in the season and for the Knicks, the recent success includes wins over Charlotte (twice), Washington and San Antonio, all struggling teams. This game Monday started a three-game stretch in which the Knicks faced Minnesota, Miami and Phoenix, a sterner test for where they are right now.

They have been missing pieces of late with Barrett missing two games with a left knee injury and then three straight with migraines. He returned Saturday in Charlotte. Quentin Grimes, who missed the last two games with a sprained left wrist, was back in the lineup Monday.

But Brunson has carried them of late, along with Randle. DiVincenzo said Saturday that he thought both players should have been All-Stars last season (Randle was), but Thibodeau said that even if the award this week was nice, it’s not the focus.

“Don’t get locked into that,” Thibodeau said. “Just lock into playing well each and every day. That’s really been his strength throughout his career if you look at him through high school, college, the pros. He [Brunson] takes it day by day. There’s no excuses by him. He’s a great worker. You have back-to-backs and then a day off, he’s going to the gym to shoot. He’s mentally tough and that’s why he’s had the success he’s had.”


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