NEW YORK – On that June night in 2015, when the Timberwolves used the first overall pick on Karl-Anthony Towns, the crowd assembled at Target Center, loving it, went wild. Minutes later, when the Knicks, at No. 4, chose Kristaps Porzingis, the New York fans booed.
Wednesday at Target Center the two put on a show. Towns had a career-high 47 points, 18 rebounds and three blocks in a two-point loss. Porzingis had 29 points, eight rebounds and four assists. The two had much quieter nights Friday, with Porzingis scoring just 11 points on 2-for-12 shooting and Towns 20 — but on 5-for-18 shooting.
The two big men are becoming the class of that draft.
“The sky’s the limit for them two guys in this league,’’ Knicks star Carmelo Anthony said following Wednesday’s game. “Towns playing the way he’s playing, Kristaps getting better and better each day. They’ll be around for a long time. They’ll be the face of this league in a couple years.’’
The two became friends in the buildup to the draft. Towns helped Porzingis, coming from Europe, feel comfortable. They regularly text each other after good games. Porzingis is planning on working out with Towns this summer.
“I think good people find good people,’’ Towns said. “Kris helps me out a lot. He’ll text me after seeing a stat line. I will if I see a stat line he had. He puts the work in, he’s a great character guy. I’m proud to watch his journey.’’
Towns’ first impression of Porzingis? Just how tall (7-3) he was. “I think I’m tall, Towns said. “But he’s really tall.’’
While they’re different players, they are similar in the way they can stretch the floor as big men. Entering Friday’s game, Towns had career averages of 19.1 points and 10.4 rebounds, Porzingis 15.7 and 7.3. This year Towns is scoring 22.4 points per game, Porzingis 21.4.
Towns and his teammates are trying to learn how to win under new coach Tom Thibodeau. Porzingis, clearly stronger than he was finishing second to Towns as Rookie of the Year last season, has taken a step up in his game.
“They’re two young guys where the sky’s the limit," Thibodeau said. “And it’s sort of the way the big guys are evolving now.’’
Remembering New York
Every trip back to Madison Square Garden brings back memories for Thibodeau, who was a Knicks assistant for seven seasons. New York got to the NBA Finals in 1999, but lost when star center Patrick Ewing was hurt and couldn’t play. The Knicks’ conference semifinals loss to Miami hinged on an infamous brawl that resulted in several Knicks being suspended.
“It was a great time,” Thibodeau. “Miami had a great team during that time. Chicago, obviously, had a great team. Indiana had a great team. So the games, every night you were going to be tested. And that atmosphere. New York basketball is so important, it makes it really enjoyable. And we had great guys. We fell short in the end. I wish we could have had a shot at it with everyone healthy.’’
• Wolves center Cole Aldrich spent two seasons with the Knicks starting in 2013. “After a while you fall in love with the city,’’ the Bloomington Jefferson product said. “I loved playing here. I loved walking into the Garden every day, hearing the cheers, hearing the boos, hearing the people yell at you and cheer for you. All within two minutes.’’
• Brandon Rush (toe) was again inactive Friday.