Wolves at Knicks: The First Road Test

The Wolves venture to the Big Apple to face the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:30 CST and will be telivised on FoxSportsNorthPlus where available and on the Wolves radio network, 830AM WCCO (@WolvesRadio on Twitter)

I’ve brought another guest for this one, Brandon Rushie, informally known as Bruce Chillroy (@AyoRush), is a Knicks beatwriter for The Knicks Wall. Rushie and myself both write for www.5thRowJoe.com

The Knicks Wall was founded in January 2012. Since then, the site has grown into the largest independent Knicks site on the web. The Knicks Wall’s main goal is to keep Knicks fans up-to-date on all things Knicks.”

I’ve asked Rushie to provide us with some perspective from the opponents side of things, which should be interesting considering it’s a New York team. Always fun to see what those in the big city think about us here in one of the ‘flyover states’.

Tonight the Knicks take on the Minnesota Timberwolves, one of the West’s young upstarts full of talent. An inexperienced yet still improving core, the promising duo of Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love have the Wolves entering the Garden as 1 of the 6 undefeated teams left in the league. Rubio is coming off an ACL tear that ended last year’s campaign prematurely, and Love looking to ready to finally give the Wolves a full 82-game season, it would be a mistake to take Rick Adelman’s squad lightly; especially considering the last three meetings between these teams have been decided by an average of 4 points.

 

The Knicks enter tonight with a record of 1-1 after a tough loss in Chicago, though their defense has been a bright spot — allowing a league low 82.5 points per game. Despite a 6th consecutive loss to the Bulls, New York did a solid job of containing Derrick Rose, holding him to 7-of-23 shooting and more turnovers (4) than assists (3). Perimeter defense was a major issue for the Knicks last year, especially when attempting to deny opposing guards entry into the paint. Head coach Mike Woodson’s switch-happy defensive philosophy, while sound in theory, is easy to attack once the pick and rolls start. Look for Rubio to put on show.

 

Although they’ve been defensively impressive, generating points has been difficult for the Knickerbockers — they’re last in points per game and 27th in pace (points per possession) this season thus far. The Wolves put on a superb defensive performance in their last game against Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder, throwing the kitchen sink at the 3-time scoring champion and forcing someone else to beat them. It worked, as Reggie Jackson and Serge Ibaka both struggled, and the Wolves pushed the pace, forced turnovers and converted them to easy points on the other end.

 

How does the Turiaf injury play to the knicks favor?

The Wolves were thin in their frontcourt even before Turiaf’s unfortunate injury. I loved watching Gorgui Dieng play at Louisville, however he was unimpressive in limited burn against the Thunder, can’t imagine Adleman wants him spending a majority of his 18 or so minutes tonight against a former DPOY, but his options are limited. Look for New York to attack the young big man and try to get to the line early.

 

What are things that the Knicks do on both ends of the floor that Wolves people should look for? How do they run their offense?

Woodson isn’t the most imaginative fellow on the offensive side of the ball, the bare bones version is get Melo the ball in the post and look for the open man once the double comes. The Knicks can make teams that double hastily pay dearly with their outside shooting, so rotations better be crisp. Defensively the Knicks show good intensity but the challenge is maintaining the mentality for all four quarters. For instance — Opening night the Knicks porous defense almost blew a 20+point lead to the Milwaukee Bucks. They must be able to close out and shut the door on an opponent if the Knicks hope to be a legitimate threat in the East, especially in games at MSG.

 

Your concerns, or lack of concerns about the game.

New York lacks frontcourt depth. Offseason acquisition Andrea Bargnani has underwhelming performed in his first two outings and Tyson Chandler, though a monster, has propensity to rack up silly fouls in a hurry. Banging around with the 290-pound Nikola Pekovic will be a tough test for him. Amare Stoudemire has been officially ruled out for tonight, so Chandler must stay on the floor and avoid foul trouble at all costs.

 

What do you believe the wolves do well (offensively or defensively) that will be effective?

While the Knicks have been doing a solid job defensively, there’s still been instances that display susceptibility to defensive breakdowns against the pick and roll. Rubio is one of the best passers in the NBA, don’t be surprised if Woodson assigns Iman Shumpert -lockdown specialist- the task of corralling the young Spanish point guard. The Knicks are guilty of becoming stagnant on the offensive side of the ball so if the Wolves come with the same level of help defense as they did against OKC, the Knicks won’t have the luxury of passing the ball to Melo and expect a blind double-team to come. The blue and orange must have solid ball movement; they must make the opponent work defensively.

 

On behalf of Timberpups I’d like the thank Rushie for contributing to the preview for this game.

Here’s a few notes of my own.

J.R. Smith will not play for the Knicks tonight, he’s serving a five-game suspension after violating the league’s substance abuse policy during the offseason.

Minnesota has scored 72 points, combined, in the first quarter of games this season and 159 in the first halves. The Wolves have yet to work out all the kinks to Adelman’s offense, there’s room to improve in terms of efficiency but it’s certain — these guys can score in bunches. They’ve scored 72 first quarter points in the first two games, combined but the Knicks have only allowed 34, also through two games, in the opening quarter. The Wolves scored 34 against OKC on Friday night.

It’s going to be two strengths battling tonight, something’s gotta give.

As a reminder, if you’re interested in more Knicks news go to TheKnicksWall.com and follow Rushie on Twitter (@AyoRush).

Keep in touch with us via @thetimberpupsblog and be sure to comment in tonight’s forum, we’ll post the link in a tweet later.

 

Zach.

Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves vs. New York Knicks, 2/8/13

Photo Credit: Associated Press
Photo Credit: Associated Press

The Timberwolves conclude their six game homestand Friday night with a visit from the NY Knicks.  The homestand has not been very successful, as the team has only been able to pull out one victory thus far.  Adding insult to injury, literally, is the announcement that Andrei Kirilenko will miss Friday’s game with his quad injury.  Earlier Friday, the team announced that they waived Lou Amundson and resigned Gelabale and Johnson for the remainder of the season. 

The Knicks come into Friday’s game off of a surprising loss to the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night.  I was hoping they would be asleep at the wheel for tonight’s game, but that loss was probably enough of a wakeup call.  The Knicks hold a 3 game lead over the Nets in the Atlantic division and are 1.5 games behind Miami for the number one seed in the Eastern Conference.   

This week, we continue our Q&A format for Friday night game previews with Knicks blogger Matt Shelter from Buckets Over Broadway

Here’s our Q&A …

Knicks Question #1 for Matt:

The Knicks are in first place in the Atlantic division and right there with Miami for the best record in the Eastern Conference.  Are they exceeding your expectations this season?  If you could only select one or two key reasons for the team’s success thus far, what would it/they be? 

Matt:

I would say first of all, everyone has bought into what Mike Woodson is selling, and most importantly that includes Carmelo Anthony, who looks like he is finally getting what it takes to not only lead a team, but most importantly what it takes to play winning team basketball. Secondly, their depth is an asset. Woodson can go 10 deep or more on any given night, which a lot of teams can’t do. Also throw a hat tip to Raymond Felton, who plays his best basketball in a Knicks’ jersey. It is hard to underestimate his value to this team.

 

Pups Question #1 for John:

The expectations were high coming into the season. I had the ‘Wolves pegged as a playoff team. How disappointing is this season to ‘Wolves fans?

John:

This season has been brutal.  Expectations were sky high and the playoffs were well within range.  The onslaught of injuries makes this season feel like a four month long episode of Punk’d.  I’m half expecting Kevin Love to rip off his warm-ups and have a Lakers jersey on and turn heel. 

All kidding aside, it has been rough to watch this team fall apart.  They were able to tread water early without Love and Rubio.  When Love came back from his first hand injury they started to float above water and greener pastures were awaiting with the return of Rubio.  Unfortunately, it has all been flushed away with injuries to just about every single person on the roster.  Love is out again, Budinger was phenomenal before going down, Roy’s knee is acting up (he’s done), Josh Howard going down for the season, and the handful or more games missed by just about every single other person.  Not fun times. 

 

Knicks Question #2 for Matt:

Given that they are the oldest team in the league (average age of 31.3), do you fear that the Knicks will start to show some of the wear and tear on their body as the season moves towards the playoffs? 

Matt:

Yes and no. Given their age, we have already seen guys like Rasheed Wallace, Marcus Camby and Jason Kidd suffer through injuries, but as I mentioned before, the Knicks have extraordinary depth. Now that Amar’e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert are healthy, Woodson will be able to limit their minutes to keep their legs fresh for the postseason.

 

Pups Question #2 for John:

The Knicks have had their share of injuries, but no team in the NBA has been as beat up as Minnesota. You can’t make excuses for injuries, but how good is this team if they are completely healthy?

John:

They are definitely a playoff team in my mind, even in a very crowded Western Conference.  With a perfectly healthy roster (or a lack of significant injuries over the course of the season) this year’s team was a 7 or 8 seed in the conference, given Rubio’s delayed return from his ACL tear.  With a minor move before the deadline (Barea or Ridnour, or Derrick Williams) they could have moved up a bit further. 

Next season – which is a familiar phrase for Wolves fans – will be critical.  They need to resign Pekovic to stay on track, but they absolutely have to make the necessary tweaks to make the playoffs and “appease” Love and Rubio in an effort to have any chance of keeping those two around long term.  With an upgrade at SG added to this roster, they could (not will, but could) make a deep run in the playoffs. 

 

Knicks Question #3 for Matt:

Do you expect the Knicks to move Amare Stoudemire before the trading deadline?  Do you expect the team to make any moves at all before the deadline?  If so, what are you hearing could be in the pipeline?

Matt:

First of all, Stoudemire isn’t going anywhere. Before his recent stretch of good play, the Knicks would have given him away for free for cap relief, but no team in the NBA will take on his salary with his injury history, especially with the new CBA. The Knicks need to add another big body, especially with Camby and Wallace on the shelf, but the problem is that they have 15 guaranteed contracts and would have to release someone and eat the contract even to sign a free agent like Kenyon Martin. That isn’t going to happen. The funny thing about winning for a change is that you aren’t linked to many players as the trade deadline approaches. The only player they have been linked to has been Lou Amundson and they aren’t going to mess with their roster to bring him in. My gut feeling is what you see is what you get.

 

Pups Question #3 for John:

Similar question. Do you see Minnesota making any moves and will they eventually be forced to move Kevin Love?

John:

I expect the Wolves will try to move Ridnour (as rumored already), but I would prefer they try to move Barea.  They may have already tried this path and come to the realization that they can’t.  That said, I don’t expect any big moves from the team, especially when they continue to fall in the standings and out of the playoff race. 

As mentioned earlier, I do expect them to make a few significant moves in the offseason though.  That has to start with resigning Pekovic and then quickly finding a new home for Derrick Williams and Ridnour or Barea – if that isn’t already taken care of by that point. 

While I would love to say that Kevin will be a lifetime Timberwolf, I just don’t see it happening.  I fully expect him to opt-out of his contract and/or alert the team that this is going to be his decision, allowing the front office to find some type of package for him.  By no means is this going to end well. 

We hope you enjoyed the preview for this Friday’s match-up between the Pups and the Knicks.  Again, you can read more from Matt at Buckets Over Broadway and follow him on Twitter.  You can read more from John on Timberpups.com and/or follow him on Twitter as well.