In what seems to be a continuing theme of the 2012-13 NBA season, the Minnesota Timberwolves were the latest team to leave Madison Square Garden with a bad taste in their mouths due to yet another late-game Knicks comeback led by Carmelo Anthony. New York outscored the Timberpups 48-36 in the second half and ultimately knocked off the Wolves 94-91 in the final seconds. Anthony, who scored 19 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter, is currently enjoying one of the best seasons of his career averaging an even 28 PPG with a player efficiency rating of 26.37, leading New York to a 20-7 record which is good for 2nd in the Eastern Conference.
Despite enduring a fourth-quarter collapse, there were many positives to take out of this game. To begin, the Wolves once again demonstrated their ability to effectively score on the low post, even when facing reigning Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler. Playing without Kevin Love, who missed the game due to an eye injury sustained in the Wolves win against OKC, the Pups relied heavily on Nikola Pekovic to provide the majority of the team’s offense on the low post.
Minnesota entered today’s contest with the highest rebounding rate in the NBA, and even without Love were able to outrebound the Knicks 47-35, including 13 offensive rebounds as a team. Turnovers were a problem for the Wolves, who committed 16 while allowing the Knicks to steal the ball 11 times.
In an electric Madison Square Garden atmosphere, Ricky Rubio had yet another tough performance in which he committed 5 turnovers and 4 personal fouls during his 18-minute time constraint. Rubio clearly lacks the explosiveness and cutting ability that he demonstrated last season and his return to full strength will require much more patience than was initially anticipated following his incredible season debut versus the Dallas Mavericks. Ricky finished with 5 points (2-6 FG), 2 assists and 1 rebound.
Alexey Shved continues to play fantastic against some of the leagues top teams, and the packed Knicks crowd gave a collective head scratch while asking “Who the heck is Alexey Shved?” Shved contributed with his perimeter shooting and his patience on the pick-and-roll, nailing 4 of his 9 three-point attempts while logging 39 minutes. As he continues to adjust to his role as a starter, some of the growing pains associated with his increased workload were evident in his 5 turnovers committed. Shved showed off his poise in the clutch after stripping J.R. Smith on an inbound pass and drilling a three-pointer to cut the Knicks lead to 1 point with only seconds remaining. However, following two Carmelo free throws, Shved was unable to tie the game on a contested three-point attempt and the Knicks held on to win. Alexey nonetheless impressed in what was his first exposure to many New Yorkers, and ended with the line of 18 points (7-16 FG), 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 steal.
After having to guard LeBron James and Kevin Durant in the past two games, Andrei Kirilenko had his hands full matched up against yet another superstar SF in Carmelo Anthony. Through 3 quarters, it appeared as if AK-47 were getting the better of the matchup, holding Melo to 14 points entering the final period. However, Carmelo exploded in the final quarter and Kirilenko fouled out in just 20 minutes on the court. Backing up AK at PF was Dante Cunningham and Derrick Williams, with Cunningham seeing the majority of the reserve minutes. “DC Hustle” provided solid defense in both the interior and on the perimeter, and finished with 12 points (6-10 FG), 10 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and no turnovers. A very efficient night for Cunningham as he continues to provide efficient minutes in a variety of roles for the Timberwolves.
With Love out, Rick Adelman went small tonight by starting Shved along with JJ Barea and Luke Ridnour. Each player logged 38 minutes and were for the most part largely effective. However, the Pups had a very tough time creating offense in the fourth quarter, and hard-hedging by the Knicks effectively hurt Minnesota’s spacing while pushing Wolves ball handlers away from the lane. Both players had a tough time penetrating the lane and settled with too many contested looks down the stretch, which ultimately contributed to the Pups demise.
Three Stars of the Game
- Carmelo Anthony – No questions here, Melo earned this one. Although it took him a while to get hot, Anthony did not hesitate and continued to attack the rim while not shying away from taking jump-shots. Improved ball movement in the second half allowed Melo to get a few more uncontested looks, which he knocked down in the fourth quarter. In a game-high 44 minutes played, Anthony finished with 33 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 block and 4 turnovers.
- J.R. Smith – Fitting that Anthony’s old running mate from his days back in Denver receives the second star, as Smith not only provided with his perimeter shooting but also from his passing. Smith was a game-high +8 on the court and finished with the line of 19 points (7-15 FG, 2-6 3FG), 7 assists, 5 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 turnovers in 39 minutes.
- Nikola Pekovic – Pek had the burden of carrying the load for Minnesota offensively faced against Tyson Chandler, but nonetheless provided 21 points (7-16 FG) and 17 rebounds in 40 minutes. While he cannot stretch the floor like K-Love, Pek continues to be vital for Minnesota’s success and increases the Wolves vesatility as a scoring unit.
Although this one is tough to swallow, the Wolves will likely get K-Love back for their matchup against the Houston Rockets at home on Wednesday night at 7:00 PM CT.