by Jonah Ballow
NYKnicks.com
@jonahballow

8:00 PM ET | Target Center
TV:  MSG
Radio: ESPN 98.7 FM

1.  The Knicks fell short in a double overtime thriller against the Bulls on Wednesday night.  Kristaps Porzingis saved New York in regulation with a swat on Lauri Markkanen and he beat the buzzer with a one-handed slam in the first overtime but Chicago squeaked past the Knicks in the final period of play to record the 122-119 win.  Michael Beasley returned from a one-game absence (sprained ankle) to score a team-high 26 points off the bench.  He also snagged 12 boards and five on the offensive glass.  Porzingis posted 24 points, Jarrett Jack delivered a throw-back triple-double, and Courtney Lee sunk 4-of-5 shots from downtown.  

2.  Tim Hardaway Jr. has missed 20 games with a stress injury to his lower leg.  The good news is the prolific shooting guard has been a full participant in the Knicks practice sessions this week and a return to the floor could be coming soon.  Hardaway Jr. is listed as questionable for the contest against Minnesota tonight and there’s an opportunity for him to see court time against New Orleans on Sunday or the MLK Day game on Monday in Brooklyn. 

3.  New York made a significant jump this season in several statistical categories.  This year’s team is excelling in the efficiency department as it ranks No. 8 in the NBA in field goal percentage.  Jeff Hornacek’s club has jumped 15 spots from the previous season as the Knicks are shooting 46.5 percent from the floor.  Enes Kanter, Kyle O’Quinn, and Michael Beasley are all shooting above 52.2 percent for the year. 

4. Two names at the top of the 2015 NBA Draft will square off tonight in Minnesota.  In 2015, Karl-Anthony Towns was selected No. 1 overall and New York used its fourth overall pick on Porzingis.  Both franchises are benefiting from the production of the two youngsters early in their careers and share similar excitement for their future in the league.  This season, Porzingis is averaging 23.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, and a league-best 2.3 blocks per game.  On the opposite side, Towns owns averages of 20.2 points, 11.9 boards, and 1.5 blocks.   Tonight will mark the fifth meeting between the two players in their careers.

5.  Arguably, the Wolves made the biggest offseason splash in the league by trading for three-time All-Star Jimmy Butler.  Tom Thibodeau snagged his defensive ace from the Bulls to pair with Andrew Wiggins and Towns to form a team that figured to chase a spot in the postseason.  Additionally, Thibodeau acquired Jeff Teague, Taj Gibson, and veteran Jamal Crawford to add depth.  At the midpoint of the season, Minnesota is 27-16 and 7-3 in its last 10 games with three straight victories.  Teague returned to the lineup on Wednesday after missing seven games with a sprained MCL.  The Wolves are a top five team in offensive rating and assist/turnover ratio entering tonight’s contest.