MINNEAPOLIS — The road trip ended the same way it began: With the Knicks getting overwhelmed by a high-level opponent.
In between, they took care of business, beating three weaker teams to make it a winning trip.
However, just like the lopsided loss to the Celtics, this one-sided setback to the surprising Timberwolves was the latest example of the Knicks struggling against a quality team.
After this 117-100 romp at sold-out Target Center, the Knicks are now 1-5 against teams with winning records, their lone victory coming over the Cavaliers the second game of the season.
This was the end of a long road trip, and the Knicks sure looked like a tired team — it was their fifth game and fifth city in eight days — after a competitive first half.
Anthony Edwards and the Timberwolves scored the first 11 points of the third quarter and never looked back in a dominant second half to remain undefeated at home (6-0).
“We just didn’t start the [second] half off strong, or finish off this road trip the way we wanted,” Julius Randle said. “We had a chance to make it a great trip and we came up short.”
The Knicks’ defense couldn’t slow down high-powered Minnesota, allowing it to shoot 51.2 percent from the field and dish out 30 assists, while coach Tom Thibodeau’s team was sluggish, too often settling for contested jump shots as part of an ugly shooting night that saw the Knicks make only 34.8 percent of their shots.
Jalen Brunson scored 25 points and Randle followed with 21 and 14 rebounds.
Edwards had 23 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in a commanding second-half performance for the Timberwolves. The Knicks had no answer for him.
“ ‘Ant’ is always in attack mode. He just plays so relentlessly,” Brunson said of Edwards. “Dude is a freak. He’s a great player.”
Karl-Anthony Towns, the much-talked-about Knicks (8-6) trade target from Piscataway, N.J. and former Leon Rose client, had 20 points, four assists and three steals in sending his hometown team to its most lopsided loss of the young season.
The large crowd really exploded in the waning seconds when DaQuan Jeffries missed two free throws, meaning a free Chick-fil-A sandwich for everyone with the Timberwolves app.
The Western Conference-leading Timberwolves (10-3) came out for the second half like they were shot out of a cannon, reeling off the first 11 points of the period to build a 13-point lead.
The Knicks’ start was the opposite: Five empty possessions to start the quarter, three missed jumpers and two turnovers.
Edwards scored eight points and set up a Mike Conley 3-pointer in the first five minutes of the period.
By the time the fourth quarter was set to begin, the game was all but over, the Knicks trailing by 18 after making just 6 of 22 shots in the third.
“The big thing is we missed some bunnies inside and then we also missed some wide-open 3s,” Thibodeau said. “You’ve got to make some shots. The first half, I thought we played pretty well. The third quarter was a problem.”
It was still a successful road trip, more wins than losses, even if it obviously ended on a sour note.
The Knicks have been busy, playing six games in nine days. But they refused to use that as an excuse.
“We can always control our energy and the little things on the court,” Brunson said. “So, I think honestly they just beat us to the punch tonight in the second half, and we didn’t react as fast as we could. … We just gotta react better. That third quarter, we gotta be ready to go.”