After the Knicks' loss on Friday night, Carmelo Anthony said his guys didn't match the Bulls' physicality to start the game, and it set them back the rest of the way.
The same thing happened early on in Sunday's game, as the Timberwolves controlled most of the lead, but the Knicks got tougher down the stretch. They battled harder on the boards against center Nikola Pekovic, and Anthony went right at Andrei Kirilenko, who fouled out, in isolation and on the block.
The Knicks' ability late in the fourth quarter to protect the rim, rebound and then capitalize through Melo were enough to outscore the Timberwolves and preserve the victory. Afterward, Steve Novak said he felt his guys were tested against Chicago and Minnesota's tough interior, but they matched it when it mattered most.
"Both those teams do have guys that are very physical, and I think we haven't been at our best," he said. "I feel like we haven't really played as well as we had defensively earlier in the season. But it's good to know that it's there; it's not like we lost it. And the teams we have been playing are physical, but with guys like Tyson and Amar'e coming back, it's not something we're worried about."
3 STRIKES: Entering tonight, the Knicks significantly dropped their 3-point shooting to 33.9 percent in their last four games. Against the Timberwolves, it was much worse -- 6-for-26 (23.1 percent). Some of that has to do with Ronnie Brewer's presence on the court. His downward spiral from downtown this month has allowed opponents, like the Timberwolves, to improve their perimeter rotations. Because they're not worrying as much about Brewer, they have less room to run around.
After the game, Jason Kidd, who at one point was leading the NBA in 3-point percentage, didn't seem concerned, emphasizing the Knicks' defense tonight. Novak, who's been battling the flu, also wasn't worried.
"They'll fall, they'll fall," he said. "It's a long season and we try to keep perspective on it being an 82-game season. ... My energy is not all the way back yet. I'll play better, there's no doubt about it. But I understand I've got to be out there and fight through it, and that's what it is. It'll come around. 3-point shooting always does."
LAKERS LOOK-AHEAD: On Christmas Day, the Knicks will be facing the Lakers for the first time with Steve Nash. Kidd offered a brief scouting report.
"They're going to be the same team that's going to try to outscore you," he said, "and a guy (Nash) who understands how to run the offense, so defensively we have to be at our best. And then offensively, we've got to put the ball in the basket."
HOLIDAY REUNION: Chandler, who's from Compton, Calif., will be seeing his family in Los Angeles on Monday and Tuesday.
"I’m just excited to spend Christmas with my family," he said. "It's been about 12 years since I've had the opportunity to celebrate the holidays with my family and be able to see my grandparents. I'm looking forward to that. I should have a lot of energy and excitement being able to play in front of them."
Chandler is also looking forward to Marcus Camby's return from plantar fasciitis.
"We need him," he said. "We're short on bigs. I could use him."
CAMBY HAZES COPE: Earlier in the season, Camby made Chris Copeland wear a tuxedo to a home game. Well, on their red-eye flight to L.A. tonight, the rookie is wearing pink and white pajama-looking, full-length attire. It was the talk of the locker room after the game.
"It's a dress code violation," Novak said jokingly.
BAH, HUMBUG!: Anthony joked the Christmas music playing at halftime on Sunday caused the Knicks to start out slowly.
"It kind of put us to sleep a little bit," he said with a smile. "I love Christmas music, but it was just the time of the game. We were down, we didn't have no energy, then they threw on the 'chestnuts roasting.'"
MELO ON RESCINDED TECHNICAL FOUL: "I wasn't surprised," he said. "I was going to fight that one anyway. I'm glad they saw it. They looked at it and they saw it was nothing that I did on that technical foul. I'm glad that they rescinded it. Who knows what could have happened in that game, but that's neither here nor there."
KNICKSMAS: If you want to catch up on the Knicks' season to date, starting at noon on Monday, MSG Network will air "24 Hours of Knicksmas," a marathon of its 24 telecasts cut down to replays in 60 minutes.