The Timberwolves wore jerseys with "Muskies" on them. For anyone wondering, those were the jerseys of the '67-'68 Minnesota Muskies who played in the ABA. For anyone wondering what a Muskie is, I will direct you here.
The first few minutes saw some poor transition defense by the Knicks. Failure to matchup after stopping the initial fast break led to two open jumpers for Luke Ridnour and Kevin Love and both were drained.
The beginning of the game also saw the Knicks with some tired legs. Ricky Rubio drove by them at will.
Lin did not look like his normal energetic self, blowing a couple finishes that he had converted in the previous four starts. The Knicks offense was led by Landry Fields attacking the paint and Tyson Chandler using his athleticism to finish against Nikola Pekovic. It turns out I completely underestimated how good Pekovic plays...more on that later.
Jeffries kept sagging off Kevin Love and looking to help. Why? He's their best scorer and arguably their best threat on the perimeter as well as the interior. Jeffries should be on him like a cheap suit, not like a dieter's fat pants. It was not the type of play I expect from Mr. Intangible.
Knicks Player of the Game
The Knicks committed many foolish fouls and got into the penalty five minutes into the game. I understand that there is some fatigue from playing the night before, but that doesn't mean you play defense like an idiot.
Jeremy Lin got out of his slow start with one of his trademark high-arced shots in the paint and a crossover step back jumper over Ridnour. Reminiscent of Kemba Walker on Gary McGhee except Lin's took place at a 15-degree angle from the baseline on the right side.
When Chandler went to the bench with two fouls, Lin picked up the scoring load and looked to attack more aggressively. Nice to see a young player understand what his team needs at certain points in the game.
The Knicks decided to put Fields on Rubio. I understand the idea that putting a bigger and longer guy on Rubio should frustrate him, but Fields does not have much lateral quickness. This led to many Rubio open shots. To me it makes sense to have the quicker defender (Lin/Shumpert) on Rubio and have Fields' length bother Ridnour (the better shooter and slower player).
If Rubio had a pull-up jumper, he could have single-handedly outscored the Knicks in the first quarter. Was that a bit of hyperbole? Yes, yes it was.
Walt Clyde Frazier made his only Gulliver's Travels reference with two minutes left in the first. Can you name me another color commentator who would relate the Lilliputians of Mildeno to the guards of the Minnesota Timberwolves? I'm sure he has some way to reference Waiting For Godot by comparing LeBron and Wade to Estragon and Vladimir. It's nice to know that Clyde is all ours.
Steve Novak was still silky smooth from three. This led Clyde to dub him "Novocain" obviously referencing his ability to take the sting out of other teams runs. That had to be it. There is no way it was because Novak sounds like Novocain.
Clyde's a humble dude. Every simple phrase he says or nickname he gives out is meant to give the illusion of simplicity. In reality, Clyde spits the pithiest lines in the NBA.
Overall, the first quarter was one of the worst defensive quarters of the season for the Knicks. They gave up open look after open look and allowed the Timberwolves to have a plus-seven rebound differential along with four offensive rebounds.
They also committed seven fouls in the quarter. If not for the Timberwolves being allergic to defense and taking care of the ball, the Knicks would have been down double digits, not three points.
The defensive intensity did not pick up for the Knicks. However, Shumpert's great hands on defense created three turnovers instead of three easy buckets for the Timberwolves. He is so skilled when it comes to on-the-ball defense that, if he figures out how to defend off the ball, we could easily be talking All-Defensive teams for this kid.
Luckily, the Timberwolves did not pick up their defensive intensity either. At least on the defensive end, you could see that both teams played the night before.
Right when I was about to type something about Bibby being useless, he hits a three. I would like to think he realized I was going to say that and it motivated him. I do what I can to help this team.
Clyde ripped the ball boy for not fixing a stuck net on the Knicks basket before the Knicks came back down with the basketball...somewhat out of character for him.
The Knicks did not adjust to the obvious problems that Fields was having against Rubio.
If you don't want Lin on Rubio (let's say to keep him out of foul trouble), then play smaller. Have Shumpert on Rubio, put Fields and the 3, and (because Jeffries looked exhausted this whole game) put Novak at the 4.
That way Love gets pulled away from the glass leading to more offensive rebound opportunities for Chandler and Fields while putting someone who has great foot speed on Rubio. It turns out that very lineup ended up getting the Knicks close in the fourth quarter before Shumpert fouled out.
Once again, the Knicks put on an exhibition of what not to do on defense. They showed it all. They did not fight through picks, get back on defense, match up if they stopped the initial transition attack, got killed by the guards and on the glass.
In addition, a complete mental breakdown by the Knicks saw them with the ball with a one-second difference between the shot clock and game clock down four and ending the half down eight.
Instead of taking the last shot, the Knicks took a quick shot, fouled, and Kevin Love hit two free throws. Then, they took another quick shot and Rubio took an ill-advised Shumpert save all the way to the hoop.
Going into the half, the Knicks were down eight, instead of by one, two, three or four points. You have to place that on Jeremy Lin. He's the point guard; he's the one who controls the offense. He should know better.
Fields started the quarter by consistently attacking the basket. On the other end, the Knicks started the quarter by letting the Wolves attack the paint. There is room for magnanimousness in the NBA and it'll get you a top spot...in the lottery. If you give, you shall receive?
So how the refs called a technical on Rubio and after the missed free throw, the Timberwolves got the ball. I don't understand that at all.
Jeffries hit a long two. I would like to think that I am ready for Judgment Day. You know what? I am going to schedule a confession after the game just to tie any loose ends.
Jeffries hit another long two and my priest was not picking up the phone. I was not scared. I was petrified.
Pekovic (who I greatly underestimated going into this game) and Love destroyed the Knicks. They seemingly got every rebound, every loose ball and consistently scored points inside the paint.
The aggressive drives of Fields and the great all-around play of Shumpert (though there was some questionable shot selection) kept the Knicks in the game.
How was Jeremy Lin? Struggling.
The man looked completely gassed in the third. He was shooting with no legs. His fatigue also manifested itself in a lack of quickness and some blown finishes at the rim.
Shumpert continued his fine play with a great crossover blow-by and finishing on a reverse leading Clyde to wonder how he did that. Seriously he said, "How did he do that?"
Jeffries missed a wide open layup and Bibby missed a wide open three. I know what Jeffries offers to make up for his lack of offense. What exactly does Bibby offer when he cannot shoot?
So instead of being up three, the Knicks were down five with 8:36 left in the fourth.
After those blown opportunities, the Knicks committed three turnovers in a row and had six out eight possessions end in a turnover.
Lin showed that he was completely gassed in the fourth quarter. He shot a wide open three woefully short and two of his drives to the hoop led to resounding rejections by a Timberwolves team without anybody who is known as a shot blocker.
The Timberwolves got a lot of friendly bounces off the rim in the first half. Maybe the baskets are not set the same way because the Timberwolves had little luck when it came to bounces off the rim in the second half, especially in the fourth quarter.
Despite all the turnover and missed shots, the Knicks found themselves down three with three minutes left. Basketball is a funny game that way.
MSG decided to showcase music from the film Purple Rain. Yes, they played "The Bird" by Morris Day & The Time. Therefore, I cannot say tonight's music came from the album Purple Rain.
With 1:21 left, the Knicks were up by one after being dominated throughout and having Jeremy Lin play on fumes the entire second half.
The Timberwolves took the lead after Shumpert picked up a loose ball foul, his sixth. Love proceeded to sank both free throws.
After a Rubio layup, that sweet jumper of Steve Novak tied the game with a three bomb.
I can't see how Novak gets tossed from the rotation when Carmelo comes back. When everyone is healthy and assuming Baron Davis is able to spot like 10-15 minutes off the bench, the Knicks should go with Lin, Fields, Carmelo, Stoudemire and Chandler with a bench of Jorts, Jeffries, Novak, Shumpert, and Davis (no particular order for the bench rotation).
Unless the Knicks sign J.R. Smith or grab a knockdown shooter who is a better defender than Novak, you have to play him.
With the game tied, Chandler stole the ball from Rubio on a drive to the hoop. Mike D'Antoni wisely did not call timeout and Lin drove to the hoop only to be clotheslined by Ridnour.
Philosophically, I believe the timeout benefits the defense more than the offense as it allows them to set their defense, avoid mismatches as they scramble to matchup, and get defensive personnel on the floor. It also gives the coach with the ball a chance to get cute and try something novel instead of sticking with what has been effective the entire game.
In the case of the Knicks, there might not be a worse team in the NBA when it comes to offense after a timeout in crunch time. So it was a solid move by Mike D'Antoni.
Lin made one out of two. If the Knicks had lost this game, Lin would have been the person to blame. His decision-making was not nearly as good as it had been in the previous games and fatigue is no excuse for that.
Ricky Rubio must have realized that Lin was going to be the subject of scrutiny. Moved with pity, he dribbled the ball off his foot and out of bounds.
However, Walker only made one of two free throws. Like I said in the Lakers recap, New York teams like to make you sweat.
The Knicks hit 13-of-22 from the free-throw line. That is awful. Yet another reason that causes you to wonder how the Knicks won this game.
The Timberwolves set up Kevin Love for a fade-away three. You know what? I'm not going to let one bad play design make me berate Rick Adelman's coaching ability. He's a legitimately good coach.
Despite the fact that the Knicks played little-to-no defense in the first half and in the second half Jermey Lin looked like he had been out with Charlie Sheen the night before, the Knicks pulled out the victory.
This win in some ways was more satisfying than the Lakers win.
Regardless of how much the Timberwolves dominated the game, these Knicks did not capitulate. They kept working; they kept fighting.
In the end, as Linsanity has also shown us, hard work and a never-say-die attitude can take you far. Tonight, it took the Knicks to their fifth win in a row.