A problem with going down big early in the game is that you need pretty much everything to go your way the rest of the game. This rarely happens. Such is the lesson the New York Knicks will hopefully take to heart after suffering a tough loss at the hands of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
After a few, strong opening minutes of the game, the Knicks got lackadaisical while the Wolves simply burned up the floorboards at MSG. The Knicks just stumbled and fumbled half-heartedly through offensive sets, clanking away at the rim or simply tossing the ball into open space. Either by turnovers or defensive rebounds, the Wolves leaked out into transition, scoring easy basket after easy basket en route to a 40-point first quarter. After holding the Chicago Bulls to just 83 points on Thursday night, the Knicks looked like a completely different, disinterested team in the opening period.
From then on, New York actually played pretty OK, but not perfect; they needed perfect to come back from the 23-point deficit they spotted Minnesota to start the game. The defense tightened up, granting generally fewer easy transition baskets while commendably sewing up holes around the basket. The Knicks mounted a massive comeback to come within one basket, but they couldn’t quite get there. The clamping defense, dishing and swishing offense, and the Wolves’ own stupor couldn’t continue for the entire fourth quarter. Through a combination of New York mistakes and clutch Minnesota plays, the Wolves escaped with a game they rightfully deserved. The Knicks, meanwhile, fell to 1-2, looking like a Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde team that can’t seem to summon greatness for more than short spurts at a time.
Here’s a look at the individual performances.
Carmelo Anthony – 44 minutes, 22 points, 8-21 FG, 2-6 3FG, 17 rebounds, 3 assists, 5 TOs, +8
A strong finish to the game kind of distorts ‘Melo’s overall night. Until he got hot from the field in the Knicks’ attempted comeback, he threw their offensive completely out of whack, making questionable passes and just mucking up shots he normally cans. His defense on Kevin Love was admirable, although the foul on Love’s three-pointer late in the fourth quarter was a back-breaker (if not the back-breaker). His rebounding was a spectacle, though, and much needed amongst the Love-Pekovic duo that swallows up boards. Hopefully the offensive rhythm Anthony found late can carry over to the ensuing games — the Knicks need it desperately.
Final Grade: B-
Metta World Peace – 21 minutes, 17 points, 7-13 FG, 4 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block, +17
World Peace’s minutes always threaten to careen the team off the road at a dangerous rate. Fortunately, after two unspectacular games, his defensive energy and offensive efficiency were welcomed in the Knicks’ comeback attempt. His attempts to create offense for himself seem as if they might collapse horrible wrong at any minute, but he was surprisingly solid tonight, pounding his way for some easy points at the basket. He defended Kevin Love the best of any Knick, legitimately bothering Love into a few poor shots and some fumbled dribbles.
Final Grade: B+
Andrea Bargnani – 19 minutes, 14 points, 6-10 FG, 2-4 3FG, 3 rebounds, 1 steal, 3 TOs, -17
Bargnani actually had himself a nice game — unfortunately for the Knicks, “nice” didn’t really fill any needs. And that seems to be the biggest problem with Bargs. His best spurts of offense are good, but not enough to carry the team, and otherwise, he doesn’t do anything else to help the team. He defended OK (I guess), but trots down the court continuously and matches up in transition horribly. He really might be welcomed coming off a scoring-averse bench, but the experiments with him as a starter really need to stop. Especially since it goes away from the Knicks’ better lineups.
Final Grade: C+
Iman Shumpert – 26 minutes, 12 points, 5-8 FG, 2-4 3FG, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 3 TOs, -6
A weird night for Shumpert, who toed the line between hurting and helping the Knicks. At times, he played in rhythm, boasting that beautiful form on his jumper, holding opponents to iffy shots. Other times, Shump was out of control, flailing about the court, turning the ball over and fouling the Wolves. More importantly, he has to, has to, HAS TO start pulling on those catch-and-shoot three-point opportunities. He may be the Knicks’ best shooter at this point, and too often he’s tentative, hesitating, then settling for contested jumpers or arrhythmic shots.
Final Grade: C
Tyson Chandler – 32 minutes, 10 points, 3-4 FG, 9 rebounds, 1 assist, -17
Chandler has put on weight this offseason, but not enough to contend with the likes of Nikoka Pekovic. Chandler defended admirably, but often just couldn’t come up with the boards while being muscled around by Pek and Love. On offense, the Wolves just tracked him too well in the pick-and-roll and transition, rarely affording him the opportunities for his usual looks.
Final Grade: B-
Raymond Felton – 38 minutes, 8 points, 3-12 FG, 2 rebounds, 12 assists, 3 steals, 3 TOs, -17
Other than a brief stretch in the second half where Felton navigated the pick-and-roll pretty beautifully, it was a forgettable game. Though he distributed quite well, his shot was nowhere to be found as he struggled both inside and out. Of course, having Ricky Rubio hound you through offensive sets isn’t too fun either. Felton’s passes look like he’s greased his hands with melted butter — they’re strangely precarious and off-the-mark.
Final Grade: C-
Tim Hardaway Jr. – 25 minutes, 6 points, 3-12 FG, 0-7 3FG, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 TO, -7
Despite a few breathtaking, energetic plays in transition, Hardaway Jr. actually demolished a lot of the Knicks’ momentum that he initally helped build. The boy can get UP in transition, but the rest of his shot selection leaves a lot to be desired. He missed approximately four important three-pointers to help the Knicks get over the hump, and then on defense, committed some downright silly fouls. Kevin Martin, Minnesota’s hero of the night, abused Timmy on defense.
Final Grade: D+
Kenyon Martin – 16 minutes, 6 points, 3-4 FG, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 block, -12
K-Mart has been quite unremarkable so far. He did an OK job defending the basket and post with Pekovic and Love, but was part of the truly woeful Knicks lineup that put them in a 20-point hole.
Final Grade: D+
Pablo Prigioni – 20 minutes, 5 points, 2-5 FG, 1-3 3FG, 1 rebound, 2 assists, 1 TO
Hey, yeah, the Knicks are still better when Pablo Prigioni plays. The Knicks’ best stretch of ball came, unsurprisingly, with Felton and Prigioni manning the back-court. They played together late in the first quarter, when the Knicks went into a tailspin, but Woodson also surrounded them with offensively lacking players like Chandler, Martin, and Hardaway Jr/World Peace. Prigioni, at times, looks like the Knicks’ best perimeter defender, with just a better understanding of angles and timing. On offense, he doesn’t operate with the ball as much as Felton, but he has a sense of angles and timing that certainly helps the team. He, too, though — as usual — needs to take open shots more often.
The Knicks will take on the Charlotte Bobcats on Tuesday.
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