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Hungry 'Wolves visit struggling Knicks

The Minnesota Timberwolves, coming off their highest-scoring win since late January, head on the road for a quick two-game set beginning Friday night against the struggling New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

With star guard Jimmy Butler out with a knee injury, the 'Wolves' offense had fallen on tough times despite the presence of two young No. 1 picks in Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.

The duo stepped up in a big way in a 123-109 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday, combining for 57 points on 19-of-35 shooting.

"This is great for them," Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters. "They're meaningful games, and I think you're seeing them make winning plays. That's the biggest thing. You can have good individual scoring games and things like that, and oftentimes that happens, but to see winning plays where guys are unselfish offensively, defensively, making hustle plays, making plays for the team that impact winning, that's what it's all about."

The Timberwolves (41-31) snapped a two-game slide against the Clippers and now get to face a Knicks squad that rediscovered its losing ways Wednesday in a 119-98 setback to Miami after a two-game winning streak.

While Minnesota has a two-man wrecking crew to turn to in the absence of Butler, the Knicks (26-46) are still looking for someone to rise from the ashes that was Kristaps Porzingis knee injury.

During the two-game winning streak -- 124-101 over the Charlotte Hornets and 110-92 over the Bulls -- that person was Tim Hardaway Jr., who combined for 47 points.

In the Knicks' loss to the Heat, Hardaway was bottled up and scored to just 12 points on 5-for-15 shooting, though Enes Kanter (23 points) and Michael Beasley (22) picked up the scoring slack.

"It doesn't feel good to lose," Knicks reserve guard Trey Burke said after the victory over Chicago. "It doesn't feel good to go home after a loss, racking up losses after losses. Every win feels great. Let's get some more."

For the Timberwolves, they are about to enter what may be their most important stretch run in more than a decade with 10 games remaining in the regular season -- five at home and five on the road.

Minnesota is two games clear of ninth-place Denver in the Western and 3 1/2 games out of third as six games separate third from 10th place in the West.

"You want to do everything step by step," Thibodeau said. "First thing, you want to have a winning season. Then, of course, you want to secure a playoff spot. Then we want to be as high (a seed) as you can be. But you want to be playing your best at the end. Hopefully, we can get there."

After playing the Knicks, the 'Wolves have a quick turnaround, heading to Philadelphia on Saturday for their second-to-last back-to-back of the season. Then it is yet another quick return to Minnesota for a Monday matchup with Memphis.

The Knicks head to Washington on Sunday to kick off a three-game road swing before returning home for five contests.
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