New York Knicks: Minnesota Timberwolves

W2W4: Knicks vs. Timberwolves

December, 23, 2012
12/23/12
1:24
PM ET
Timberwolves star Kevin Love has a left eye injury and won't play on Sunday evening at the Garden. That makes game-planning a whole lot easier for the Knicks. If you recall, Love had a historic 31-point, 31-rebound performance against the Blue and Orange in 2010-11.

Here are three main things to watch, starting at 5 p.m. ET:

1. Set the tempo at the jump. No Love (13.9 rebounds per game) means more opportunities to snatch misses off the rim and push the pace -- something the Knicks couldn't do against the Bulls on Friday night. It's important the Knicks don't fall into a slower halfcourt game early on. They need to capitalize with a few fast-break buckets. They sure would like a couple of transition 3-pointers from Carmelo Anthony -- the key to his league-leading average of 10 first-quarter points.

2. Can the Knicks bring their best pick-and-roll defense? The Timberwolves have one of the deepest point-guard rotations in the league with Ricky Rubio, Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea. Tyson Chandler knows the speedy Barea from their 2010-11 championship season together in Dallas. In addition, Minnesota's shooting guard Alexey Shved is basically another seasoned floor general. He makes smart plays around screens, leading to his 4.5 assists per game, tied for second-most on the team. He can also get inside the lane and pull up way beyond the 3-point line.

What enhances Minnesota's pick-and-roll game is burly center Nikola Pekovic, who's averaging career-highs in points (16.0) and rebounds (7.9). Without Amar'e Stoudemire, Marcus Camby and Rasheed Wallace, Chandler will, once again, be banging and clawing in a lot of minutes. Hopefully this time, there's no extra frustration that leads to a messy collapse like the one on Friday night.

3. Anthony vs. Andrei Kirilenko. Of course, there's no one in the league who can contain Melo. As Nets coach Avery Johnson put it last week, he's "on another planet right now." But someone who can make him work harder on the court? That would be the Timberwolves' defensive specialist. Kirilenko is one of the rare players who can cover an entire stat line. On the season, he's averaging 13.7 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.6 blocks.

Kirilenko is active and aggressive, like the five international players in Minnesota's rotation who learned to be physical when they were in their teens already competing against grown men on foreign club teams. Anthony said his guys couldn't match the Bulls' physicality in the first quarter, so the Knicks will have be ready to combat that tonight. And it starts with his head-to-head matchup with the Russian.

You can follow Jared Zwerling on Twitter.

Rapid Reaction: Knicks 100, T-Wolves 98

February, 11, 2012
2/11/12
10:31
PM ET
Recap | Box score | Photos

WHAT IT MEANS: Although Jeremy Lin came back to earth Saturday night, shooting 8-for-24, he continued his magical run by hitting the go-ahead free throw with four seconds remaining in the Knicks' eventual 100-98 victory.

Lin, who scored 20 points and dished out eight assists, wasn't alone. Iman Shumpert (20 points off the bench) and Landry Fields (19 points) pitched in as the Knicks won their fifth straight -- their longest winning streak of the season. And they've done it without Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire.

TURNING POINT: Fields missed a jumper with less than a minute to play, and Ricky Rubio made a layup with 40 seconds remaining to put Minnesota up three. But the Knicks weren't done. Steve Novak hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 98. From there, Lin made the big foul shot, and Bill Walker added one with a second to play.

THE GOOD (not including Lin): (1) Shumpert's offense. He's not only recapturing that scoring mentality he had in the early part of the season, but he's looking better now. He's starting to become the sixth man the Knicks were envisioning he'd be.

(2) Fields' half-court attacking. He's starting to look like a bona fide starting 2 guard, scoring off the dribble-drive and capitalizing on and-1 opportunities.

(3) Jared Jeffries' shooting. Jeffries has earned praise this week for his defense and finishing skills around the basket, but his ability to knock down the open shot has gone underrated. He had two tonight, en route to eight points.

THE BAD: (1) The Knicks' interior defense. The Knicks allowed Timberwolves power forward Kevin Love and center Nikola Pekovic to combine for 29 points and 18 rebounds in the first half, as they helped the team shoot 57.1 percent.

(2) Lin's turnovers. He has to take a bit better care of the ball when he gets into the paint (he finished with six turnovers, and he's now averaging 5.5 turnovers per game after four starts). Give credit to Rubio (three steals) for playing right up on him and reading several of his passes.

(3) No Toney Douglas for the third straight game. He's now officially buried like Lin was just a week ago, if you can believe it.

WHAT'S NEXT: The Knicks' next road opponents Tuesday night, the 9-19 Raptors, are in desperate need for their leading scorer, Andrea Bargnani (23.5 points per game), to return. Problem is for them, that might not happen for a while. So that means the Knicks, who will have Stoudemire back in the lineup and maybe Anthony, should put away the Raptors early. Since Bargnani missed his first game Jan. 13, the Raptors have gone 5-12, and they're averaging only 88.2 points per game on 40.8 percent shooting and 33.4 percent from 3.

You can follow Jared Zwerling on Twitter.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Carmelo Anthony
PTS AST STL MIN
24.2 3.1 1.0 35.7
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsC. Anthony 6.6
AssistsJ. Calderon 4.7
StealsS. Larkin 1.2
BlocksS. Dalembert 1.3