WHAT IT MEANS: Opposing power forwards are starting to have a major crush on the Knicks. Two nights after David Lee went off for 28 points and 10 rebounds in the Warriors' win, Kevin Love erupted for 31 points and 31 rebounds, catapulting the Timberwolves to a 112-103 come-from-behind victory. Love's performance was the NBA's first 30-30 game since Moses Malone did it in 1982. "Love is a lot to handle," Mike D'Antoni said. "You've got to give him credit. He did an unbelievable job." Minnesota's hometown crowd wasn't only feeling the Love; Michael Beasley was still hot following his 42-point outing Wednesday, hitting five baskets in the first quarter and finishing with a game-high 35 points. The Knicks have now lost four in a row and are three games under .500.
TURNING POINT: Before the game, Amare Stoudemire, Landry Fields and Bill Walker stressed the importance of getting off to a good start, and the Knicks did just that. They built an early 19-8 first-quarter lead, getting balanced scoring from the starting five, and at the start of the third quarter, they were up 67-53. The main difference in the game up until that point was the Knicks' 3-point shooting from Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari. But with 11:07 to go in the third, Stoudemire got called for his fourth foul and went to the bench (Ronny Turiaf sat out again, so he couldn't sub in). That's when Love got going down low and even Darko Milicic made a couple of shots in the paint. By the end of the third quarter, the Knicks saw their commanding lead cut to 87-80, and from then on, the Timberwolves kept clawing back into the game.
FOURTH-QUARTER FALLBACK: The Knicks, again, relied too much on long-range shooting in the fourth quarter, and they didn't have an offensive rebounding presence (only 11 total) for second-chance opportunities. Not to mention, Stoudemire only had nine rebounds in the game and hardly got anything going on offense down the stretch (he finished with a subpar 14 points). He also got outplayed by Love on defense.
During the broadcast, MSG Network color analyst Walt Frazier mentioned that Stoudemire works on his jump shot for 30 minutes prior to every game. But he has to focus on his dribbling -- to cut down on his 4.2 turnovers per game -- and playmaking as well, especially because the Knicks need him to play more as a versatile big man than he did in Phoenix. In the Knicks' offense, his one-on-one weaknesses are being exposed. He hasn't shown a variety of moves or pump fakes when he drives to the basket; rather, he's being mostly an up-and-down player who prefers to use his strength, a la LeBron James, to power his way to the hoop. That caused him to get called for a couple of charges in the game.
In the fourth quarter, Stoudemire got caught shooting off-balanced shots (he was 6-of-15 from the field in the game) and caused the Knicks to have a dry spell. "We have to have a consistent effort in the second half," Fields said. On the other end of the floor, it was Love's around-the-basket game and Beasley's one-on-one prowess that put the Timberwolves on top.
BRIGHT SPOTS: Before the game, Felton said the team's tendency has been to hold the ball too long in half-court sets and that it needs better movement and spacing off pick-and-rolls. For the first three quarters, the Knicks made improvements in those areas. Each player did a better job of catching the ball and attacking right away, which helped them find a rhythm with their passing and get open on the perimeter. And off the pick-and-roll, Felton was able to find room and knock down a couple of 3s.
While overall it was an embarrassing loss for the Knicks, Gallinari finally found his stroke (he hit four 3s and scored a season-high 25) and Fields had a career-high 16 points and nine rebounds. They both were effective in transition to start the game. If the Knicks had only made more of their fast-break layups, it could have been an even more lopsided game early on.
WHAT'S NEXT: Quite simply, another potent power forward in Luis Scola, who's averaging a double-double (21.9 points and 11.1 rebounds). And get this -- he's already had a 36-point, 16-rebound game this season. Scola won't be the only Rocket the Knicks will have to stop Sunday at the Garden. Kevin Martin is eighth in the league in scoring at 23.6 points per game. Tonight's tale proved that even a previously 2-7 team cannot be taken lightly, and the Rockets are 2-6 on the season. It's probably a good thing Yao Ming is out for another week.
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