Go ahead, take a dip. Flossy says it's okay. The Knicks weathered an early onslaught by the Minnesota Timberwolves to notch their 10th win in 11 games. New York shot well to start, but got absolutely eviscerated by the Minny big men. Darko Milicic, Kevin Love, and Michael Beasley scored at will, and the Wolves hit 10 of their first 11 shots. After giving up 68 points in the first half, the Knicks came out in the third quarter with more defensive intensity and spun turnovers and better shot defense into a lead. In the fourth, the Knicks used a heavy dose of Amar'e Stoudemire and some timely buckets and free throws to keep the Wolves at bay. (If we ever meet, feel free to slap me for that pun.)
Take the jump for some other odds and ends.
- That first quarter was just abominable. Even with Ronny Turiaf back in uniform, Wilson Chandler started, and he and Amar'e Stoudemire were overwhelmed by Darko and Love in the paint. Those two repeatedly got prime position and scored with ease from point-blank range. Beasley, meanwhile, drove the ball inside and met little resistance from the Knick frontcourt. On the other end, the Knicks weren't exactly clicking, but they were hot enough from outside to avoid a double-digit deficit by the end of the quarter.
- Fun stat to symbolize the ridiculousness of that first quarter: Raymond Felton's rebound with less than 3 minutes remaining in the period was the Knicks' first rebound of the game.
- In this bullet point, I shall provide updates on an injured big man for each team. Ronny Turiaf returned to action this evening. After some awkward minutes in the first quarter in which he was handling the ball in uncomfortable regions of the floor (too much baseline, too much dribbling), he settled down and played some decent basketball. Turiaf's play of the night was either his merciless pinning of a Wayne Ellington lay-up to end the third quarter or this reaction to an erroneous out-of-bounds call in the fourth. Meanwhile, Darko Milicic injured (re-injured?) one of his big ol' legs and was not able to carry his fine play past the first quarter. That was a pretty nice break for the Knicks, who hadn't an answer for Darko's inside play.
- It amazes me that sentient beings, let alone professional adults, are convinced that it's a good idea to make a 3D, semi-animated movie about Yogi Bear right now. Exactly who is the target audience for that film? I don't think even bears are going to go see that movie, and even if they do, they'll surely gain entry into the theater via brute force, not ticket purchases. Same deal for concessions. That movie won't make a cent.
- Kevin Love (33 points, 15 rebounds) dominated Amar'e Stoudemire on one end (Which one of you buttheads taught Kevin how to shoot threes? What made you think that was okay?), but Amar'e (34 points, don't worry about the rebounds) kept pace with some magic of his own. He absolutely owned the fourth quarter, sinking important buckets while Raymond Felton took a breather, then syncing with Felton for a few more later on. That play on words was unintentional, but you can slap me twice if you see fit.
- I think I hinted at this before the jump, but the major change in the third that turned the game around was superior ball denial. A great way to stifle a hot-shooting team is to prevent them from shooting at all, and the Knicks did that by fronting, poaching, and gambling against shaky Minnesota ball movement. It paid off. The Snow Dogs had 8 turnovers in the third while the Knicks outscored them 31-18.
- That third quarter saw Walt Frazier at his very best. Clyde on the Knicks' improved defense: "The Knicks are on their case like Sherlock Holmes!". He also lauded Sebastian Telfair's "pores", but I think he meant "poise".
- NIkola Pekovic has a swath of hair that starts at his neck, stretches up his sideburns and onto his scalp, then continues over the back of his head and down his spine, all the way to the tip of his tail. Yes, tail.
- Early on, Raymond Felton made some interesting (read: bad) decisions with the ball, but he played a rowdy, rowdy game and finished with a nice line. Felton scored almost all of his points (18) on threes (5 of 'em), snaggled 4 steals, dished out 11 dimes, and made lots of cool mean faces. This is in contrast to Sebastian Telfair's mean faces, which are petulant and decidedly uncool.
- Kenan Thompson does a (admittedly) terrible Robert DeNiro impression. As an avid Kenan fan, I was kinda disappointed with his "Gimme a Minute" segment with Jill Martin. Could've used much more Pierre Escargot.
- Maybe I was seeing things, but it seemed to me like Corey Brewer and Danilo Gallinari had a bit of a battle going at the end of the game, and not just to see who could flail their arms more vigorously. While the Wolves were fouling to stop the clock, Brewer put a particularly hard hit on Gallinari. Gallo flopped, and Brewer looked down at him menacingly, then strutted away without offering him a hand up. In the game's closing seconds, Brewer bricked a superfluous but wide-open dunk, then Gallo took it upon himself to run up the score with a dunk on the other end. Advantage: Cock. In all likelihood, though, I totally imagined that beef and Corey Brewer has no idea who Danilo Gallinari is.
- Speaking of which, Gallo hit the dagger in the final minute. With the shot clock winding down, Gallo ignored Amar'e Stoudemire, who was mismatched with Corey Brewer on the block, and opted to heave a contested bomb from downtown. Buckets. Knicks up 7. Game essentially over. Mike D'Antoni's reaction was priceless. He had the look of a man who was simultaneously relieved with a sealed victory and overcome with the prospect of his own mortality. Danilo has that effect on people.
- Yo, Shawne Williams is good. Extra E continued to poop in the corner with aplomb (3-4 from downtown), and also played some splendid help defense around the basket (2 blocks). One thing I like about the corner-pooping is that Williams has surprisingly discerning shot selection, almost to a fault. The 3-4 stat is a testament to Shawne's tendency to pull only when he's sure he can make the shot. That's an excellent quality. Had he pulled when I was confident he'd make the shot, it would have been more like 4-45.
- Landry Fields wasn't hitting open shots (1-7 and 0-4 from downtown, but they weren't bad threes), but was cleaning up the glass. He grabbed another 10 boards, including 4 on the offensive end.
- Toney Douglas ran a few pretty ugly possessions, but also did plenty of good. He defended brilliantly in that third quarter, grabbed 6 rebounds, and got to the rim for a few finishes. TD D much more of WTDD tonight than he has in recent games.
- The Knicks are now 2-0 when I wear a crown during the second half.
With that, I leave you. The Knicks next take the floor on Wednesday against the Raptors.