NYC, New York- Should NBA teams be rated on the convenience of their wins, the New York Knicks would not top the list, but in rallying late to overcome the short-handed Minnesota Timberwolves Sunday night at Madison Square Garden in a 94-91 victory, the Knicks did find themselves were it counts most: atop the Atlantic Division.
A half-game behind the Miami Heat, the Knicks [20-7] found themselves trailing late, a theme of their recent six-game home-stand.
Without All-Star Kevin Love, and with guard Ricky Rubio playing limited minutes, the Timberwolves managed an 11 point lead up until the 1:13 mark of the fourth quarter when Knicks’ forward Carmelo Anthony swooshed in a layup and a free-throw to give New York an 88-86 lead, and eventually the win.
Anthony, who finished with a game-high 33 points, struggled early, and was a non-factor until he went off in the fourth quarter for 19 points, as the potential MVP candidate went 5-of-8 from the field and 8-of-9 from the line to give the Knicks the offense [which shot 6-of-26 from three-point range] the boost they had been lacking for the majority of the game.
“That was kind of an MVP performance at the end, said Knicks’ head coach Mike Woodson. “He stepped up and made the plays. When he got that fifth foul called, it’s like a light went off and he made the plays big-time.”
“We didn’t want to look back at this game later in the season and say this was a game that we shouldn’t have lost….,” said Anthony. “We picked it up defensively in the second half and we won the game.”
Russian rookie Alexey Shved, who missed what would have been a game-tying three pointer for the T-Wolves with time expiring, scored 18 points in his MSG debut.
After Shved’s miss, Minnesota tried to foul New York, but in watching the instant replay, the officials agreed that the foul did not occur before the final buzzer, causing Timberwolves’ head coach Rick Adelman to give one of the shortest post-game press conferences in which he stated that, “I’m not going to get fined, so I have nothing to say.”
J.R. Smith played Robin to Melo’s Batman, scoring 19 points to go alongside his seven assists and five rebounds. It was Smith who also provided the play of the game, with the the one-handed poster slam over Minnesota’s Greg Stiemsma back in the second quarter. This quintessential play by the Knicks’ top sixth-man would be followed by a backwards layup and an assist to center Tyson Chandler for an alley-oop that brought New York within one point, 43-42.
As for the Timberwolves, center Nikolai Pekovic continued to make his case for most underrated player in the Western Conference, and ended the night with a team-high 21 points and a season-high 17 rebounds.
J.J. Barea contributed big minutes for the T-Wolves, scoring 12 points, four assists and five rebounds.
Rubio, [who played 17:36 minutes], who scored five points, taking only six shots, with two assists, talked about his frustration after the loss.
“I lost control of the game, that can happen to a point guard,” said Rubio who had five of the Timberwolves 16 turnovers.
“I understand he’s upset, I’m upset, but he [Rubio] played well,” commented Minnesota forward Andrei Kirilenko on Rubio’s rehab, and Minnesota’s loss, adding, “He’s [Rubio] young, that’s where the turnovers come from, it shouldn’t affect his game.”