Sunday, 3 November 2013

Knicks Night #2: Minnesota Can Score the Basketball

Kevin Love's wild, ridiculous fourth quarter bank shot. 
Having blitzed the Oklahoma City Thunder by 19pts (they led by 34 at one stage) on Friday, Minnesota arrived at the Mecca of Basketball with a 2-0 start in hand, and a scorching offense that had proved incredibly difficult to contain. Well, nothing much changed. Mike Woodson responded to the sheer size and girth of the Wolves' Love-Pekovic frontline tandem by sticking with Andrea Bargnani in the opening lineup, leaving the historically successful three-guard setup on the shelf, for now. Meanwhile, Amar'e Stoudemire did not feature and was rested by the Knicks, following an 11 minute spurt in Chicago on Thursday

For New York, the first period was riddled with turnovers and offensive ineptitude, as the Knicks handled the ball carelessly and opened up a flurry of transition opportunities for the Timberwolves. Minnesota's expensive summer signings, Kevin Martin and Corey Brewer, lapped up the chance to get out on the break, netting layups and dialling in from the outside. Martin, in particular, showcased his ability to persist as a prolific scorer, connecting on long-range flings (5-5 from 3pt range for the game) and steadily earning - and converting - free throws. The Knicks were the owners of an unorganised offense and a sloppy, sagging, scattered defensive effort, which freed Kevin Love in the paint for easy baskets. The frustrations of an unproductive offense seemed to shine through on the opposite end for the orange-clad 'Bockers, who fruitlessly leapt for up-fakes and pivots, and registered a handful of quick, costly fouls. Love was the primary source for this, as he scored four points the (very) unconventional way, being fouled on a perimeter shot, making three straight free throws, and bearing the responsibility of swishing a technical freebie. In a stark contrast to the dire play of New York, the Twolves wilfully swung the ball around the arc, which resulted in a glaringly open J.J. Barea corner three near the end of the term. Symbolic of his team's troubles and their outrageous six opening quarter turnovers, Mike Woodson burned a full timeout only 34 seconds before the first break, with the Knicks closing the phase with a remarkable 40-19 deficit.

The stagnant, lethargic play was a constant for New York in the first few minutes of the second period, and the problems were not solved with the untimely jawing of Metta World Peace, who picked up a technical for his efforts. Carmelo Anthony awoke the silent crowd with a baseline drive by Dante Cunningham, finishing with a strong two-handed slam. This trimmed the considerable margin to 14pts, and offense emerged from unlikely places from this point forward. Minnesota refused to allow their offense to fade, however, with Pekovic (11pts and 12 rebounds) and Love both regularly establishing post position, and the former able to deftly drop a hook in the basket over the length of Tyson Chandler. After managing 9pts in 25 minutes against the Bulls on Thursday, Andrea Bargnani (14pts on 6-10 field goal conversion) splashed two deep balls, as the beneficiary of some of Raymond Felton's 12 assists. It was Bargnani and Metta World Peace (17pts on 7-13 shooting in 20 minutes of play) who, surprisingly, stabilised the Knicks' offensive output in the second. Kevin Love leaked out on the break and broke through an attempted-swipe from Raymond Felton, finishing a finger roll and a traditional three point play. World Peace, however, erased this and ever so slightly brightened an otherwise gloomy first 24 minutes for New York, by nailing a corner three with 2 seconds remaining on the clock. The Love-led Wolves nonetheless fashioned a 64-49 halftime advantage. 

The bountiful transition game of Minnesota was orchestrated by Kevin Martin (30pts on 9-12 shooting) and Corey Brewer at the beginning of the second half, helping to pad the already-healthy gap for the road team. Mike Woodson turned to rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. for some semblance of offensive creativity and contribution, and he delivered. Hardaway Jr. scored inside, was found for an alley-oop by Felton, and soared to the basket by Love for a fast break jam. His showy confidence and exuberance led him astray, though, as he finished 3-12 from the floor and failed to hit on any of his seven outside launches in 25 minutes of court time. Although the Knicks were battling to chip away at the ugly margin, they were largely the authors of their own undoing late in the third, racking up regular fouls and entering the penalty early, permitting Love and Martin to set up camp at the free throw line. Combined, the duo ended the night 19-24 at the charity stripe. 

An 8-0 stretch over the end of the third and start of the fourth sturdied the Knickerbockers, even as Carmelo Anthony struggled to settle into an offensive rhythm. Anthony did, though, rebound extremely well throughout the night, attacking the glass and positioning himself to amass a total of 17 boards. Persistence on the rebounding front balanced Anthony's play, and left him well-placed to discover the offense that had evaded him in the first 36. Despite this, two plays from Kevin Love in the fourth quarter concreted the result and broke the will of both the rallying Knicks, and the home crowd. Love drained a cold-blooded three point shot to push the difference back out to eight points, and then on a later possession, stumbled, gathered and banked in (see above) an off-balance, circus shot. The stretch four-man led the charge for the Twolves, tallying 34 points, 15 rebounds, and 5 assists, adding to his stellar play from the team's two prior victories. Ultimately, the Knicks' laziness and inactivity in the first twelve minutes dug a hole too big to escape from for the rest of the contest. Minnesota will seek to lengthen their three-game winning streak tomorrow night in Cleveland, while the Knicks host the Charlotte Bobcats at MSG on Tuesday night.

Worth noting - the Knicks are now 0-2 while wearing their outlandish orange outfits this season.

FINAL - New York 100-109 Minnesota

New York 1-2, Minnesota 3-0

No comments:

Post a Comment