NBA Game Recap: Knicks 100 – Timberwolves 98

Man, was I fired up to see the Knicks to come to town, reuniting two former Kansas State stars – Michael Beasley and Bill Walker. Somehow, someway, the game was overshadowed by two of the NBA’s newest darlings – Jeremy Lin and Ricky Rubio.

I’m just happy I could watch the game. Wolves fans in the great state of Minnesota had to suffer through another night of hockey on FSN. How is the most exciting team in the state barely on TV? Obviously, the lockout created some scheduling difficulties, but the other 29 teams seemed to figure it out. At this rate, Wolves announcers Tom Hanneman and Jim Petersen will be forced to start shopping at the dollar store.

Unfortunately, those of us watching on League Pass (or in person) saw the team squander away another lead late in the fourth quarter. After a strong first half, the pace of the game was slowed and became dull to watch. Our favorite team was held to 36 second half points (11 in the 4th quarter), shooting 31% in the process.

Last time the Knicks visited the Target Center was Kevin Love’s famous 31 point, 31 rebound effort. Tonight, it seemed as though Love’s teammates were just happy to have tickets to the show, hoping for a similar effort from the star. Love certainly did his part, with 32 points and 21 rebounds (18 defensive) in 43 minutes. He can’t do it all by himself.

Nikola Pekovic had another solid game, using his big frame to make Tyson Chandler look like a rag doll at times. Pek clearly got to Chandler, who was given a technical late in the third after sharing a few choice words and mean-mugging our boy from Montenegro. It’s never pretty with Pek, but hey, how can you complain? He gets the job done down low and comes to play hard every night.

Teams have taken notice to his (in)ability to handle the ball. As the Knicks showed last night, Pek is susceptible to having the ball stripped from him when taking the ball up for a shot. It will be interesting see if Jack Sikma, the Wolves assistant coach working with Pek on his post game, can help to clean things up. Regardless, we have a center for the future that can create space in the paint, whether it be as a starter or a reserve.

As a Wolves fan, it is a little weird to see the attention that point guard Jeremy Lin is getting nationally. In some respects, it is as if he has replaced Ricky Rubio as the media’s new favorite player. It sounds silly, but after years of misery in “fly-over country,” it has been pretty nice to be headline news anytime Rubio lights it up. Lin is a great story and surely someone we should all root for.

Living in Hong Kong, it is amazing to see the impact he has had internationally in such a short time. Highlights of the Wolves-Knicks game were shown during sports updates on the news (the only NBA game to be recapped) and his fame is growing with each passing day. For a continent full of Rockets, Lakers, and Heat fans, it will be interesting to see how much of an impact Lin is able to make. A great deal of the hype is due to the fact that he plays for one of the most storied franchises in the most famous arena in one of the largest cities in the world. The east coast media doesn’t hurt either. His production of late cannot be ignored, but his ability to continue playing at a high level will ultimately determine whether he is deserving of all the hoopla. Twitter has become unbearable, with some mention of #linsanity in every other Tweet..

Everything aside, Lin had an less than stellar game, marked by a few nice moments in the first half and a late free throw that helped to seal the game at the end. If you go to ESPN, however, you’d think that the guy did everything short of singing the national anthem. Lin was able to get to the lane at will in the first half, scoring 15 points (7-12 shooting) and dishing out 4 assists. The second half was a very different story, as the Knicks guard was clearly bothered by the defense of Ricky Rubio. Playing all 24 minutes of the second half, Lin shot 1-12, scoring 5 points with 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 4 turnovers. For a point guard, he sure gives the ball away a lot.

As mentioned, Rubio played well on the defensive end, giving little breathing room to Lin. As has been the story of late, he struggled shooting the ball but was able to find open teammates, racking up 8 assists compared to 2 turnovers. Amazingly, the two turnovers didn’t occur until the last 26 seconds of the game. The Wolves most clutch player found himself giving the ball up in the most important moments of the game. As his postgame comments reflected, he is best served using this as a learning experience rather than dwelling on a missed opportunity.

Now, for some more game notes:
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  • It was nice to see the Wolves get off to a quick start against the Knicks. The team made 7 of its first 9 shots and held a 22-11 lead halfway through the first quarter.
  • CAN IMAN SHUMPERT GET ANY LOVE?? Shumpert, not Jeremy Lin, was responsible for the Knicks victory, playing a huge minutes on defense and hitting big shots for his team at critical moments. The guard shot 9-16 (2-4 from beyond the arc) for 20 points, along with 4 steals in 29 minutes of play. After watching him play, it is clear that a) he is best served when not handling the point guard duties, b) he could be a big time player for years to come, and c) Jeremy Lin should be buying the guy dinner.
  • What happened to Pek? After dominating the paint in the first 3 quarters, Adelman only gave the center 2:39 of run in the final frame. For much of the game Pek was disrupting the Knicks defense and threw in some offense as well. He had four turnovers, reflecting the Knicks ability to strip the ball as he went to the hoop, but the man only missed ONE shot (9-10). Nikola’s disappearance was another puzzling game decision by Rick Adelman.
  • I want to love Wesley Johnson, I really really do, but the guy continues to take up space on the floor. Give me anything, anything at all and I’d be happy. Even if he’s not scoring, he needs to find ways to leave his mark on the game. Instead, we got this last night:
    17 minutes, 0 points (0-2), 1 rebound, 1 turnover, 1 foul.
  • Saturday night’s attendance was 20,232 – the 4th largest in Target Center history and biggest since March 12, 2004 vs. the Lakers

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Next Up: Monday night at Orlando, on FSN (and NBATV)