The Knicks won the first battle in the Late-Season Tank Warfare Bonanza by losing to the Timberwolves in Madison Square Garden. The Knicks lost. They battled right to the finish and into OT, but couldn't quite squeeze out enough to defeat the young Timberpups. Some may take solace in the scrappiness of the Knicks tonight. Others will simply be pleased to see New York take sole ownership of that warm spot at the bottom of the standings. In any case, this was about as easy a loss to find satisfaction in as you'll see from this season's Knickerbockers.
This game went down to the absolute wire. It was a back-and-forth affair all night long, and the Knicks seemed determined to pull another win out after Tuesday's OT win over San Antonio. Langston Galloway and Alexey Shved did their best to stave off defeat through their increasingly normal clutch play, but ultimately couldn't keep the Wolves from earning the road win.
The Wolves only barely met the basic requirements for participating in an NBA game by signing Yonkers native Sean Kilpatrick like... an hour before they took the floor in MSG. I wonder what happens if a team fails to dress eight players? In any case, Minnesota got Kilpatrick in time and eked out the W. Kevin Martin really helped carry the Timberwolves through the end of regulation. Shved is many things, but strong defender he is not and Martin torched him late in the 4th. Lance Thomas took the K-Mart assignment in overtime, but continued stern interior play from Gorgui Dieng ensured the Knicks didn't actually win the dang thing. Notes:
- Galloway added another clutch three to his resume with a huge one to start the final two minutes in overtime. He finished with a team-leading 21 points, 7 rebounds, and plenty of sweat on the floor as he laid out for loose balls as often as possible. He's just a treasure.
- Gorgui Dieng, though. The young center filled in admirably for the injured Nikola Pekovic. The Knicks had few answers for Dieng on either end of the floor, as he went 9 of 10 from the field to pair with his 6 blocks in 48 minutes of action. Three of his blocks came in the first five minutes of action. The Wolves legitimately didn't have anyone else to credibly man the pivot, leading to that massive workload.
- Alexey Shved had another strong night as perhaps the most complete offensive player on the roster, and he hit a pair of huge free throws to ensure the Knicks made it into overtime. Shved pounds the air out of the ball, but he's shown an ability to create shots utterly lacking in every other player on this team. I remain skeptical of his ability to contribute at a high level for an actual good team, but he's necessary for the Knicks right now. Hopefully the addition of Ricky Ledo helps to limit the reliance the Knicks have on Shved right now. He's inefficient and still a poor defender, but maybe a reduced role could alleviate one or both.
- Andrea Bargnani had a Bargs night. Despite the fact that he wasn't really actually scoring from the post, Bargnani managed to force enough mismatches to draw double teams from the Wolves, which freed the Knicks' perimeter players for open shots. His mobility and midrange shooting seemingly helped keep the Knicks' offense afloat, but his work carving out position in the low post really bogged down the ball movement. Missed a bunny late that could have helped seal the game, too. Tank so hard.
- Lou Amundson is kind of good! He had some nifty passes tonight and pulled in a bunch of rebounds. I don't think it's a coincidence that he ended with a plus/minus of +4.
- Andrew Wiggins got to the line a ton, but there wasn't a ton of memorable action from him tonight. One seqence, though, saw him almost set up Zach LaVine for consecutive alley-oop dunks but Shved broke up the second lob.
- Speaking of LaVine: That guy sure can complain about a missed call. Mike Breen commented on it, saying that the refs didn't appreciate young players whining about no-calls. LaVine came off a little whiny at times.
- The Wolves attempted 30 free throws to the Knicks' own 10. That kind of free throw disparity is tough to overcome.
And that was that. Tonight was surprisingly fun! The Knicks hung tough for twelve lead changes, but a few missed opportunities late and an utter inability to limit Gorgui Dieng spelled their demise. I hope you were able to wash down this game with a nice glass of Kentucky basketball, as JetsFan718 recommended. The Knicks take on the 76ers tomorrow night, another game with potentially heavy implications on the draft lottery. Go the Knicks, whatever that means anymore.