GameDay Blog: Wolves vs. Knicks - Feb. 8, 2013

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Final: That's the game, folks. Costly turnover and foul in the final 30 seconds leads to a 100-94 loss tonight here at Target Center. The Wolves finish the homestand 1-5. Ridnour with 20, Rubio with 18 & 11, D-Will with 19 and Pek with 16. Catch for more updates, analysis, photos, interviews and more throughout the night. NYK 100, MIN 94

Q4 19.9: Just when it looks like the Wolves have life, the Knicks pick up the steal and J.R. Smith gets fouled while scoring in transition. Such a costly foul. New York goes up by four with 19.9 left. NYK 98, MIN 94

Q4 1:10: New York just got a pull-up jumper from Melo, who now has 36 for the game, and the Knicks are up three with 1:10 to play. NYK 95, MIN 92

Q4 3:24: The Knicks are on their way back. Minnesota had an 87-76 lead with 7:16 to play in this game and looked like they were on the verge of taking control. But since that point the Knicks are on a 13-3 run and have made this a one point game. Melo has 32 and he's really taking control here. MIN 90, NYK 89

Q4 8:01: Ricky Rubio is doing some work tonight. He's got 14 points and 10 assists, he's driving, he hit from three and he's shooting 50 percent from the floor. It's his second double-double in three games and his third straight game with 10 or more assists. More importantly, the crowd is loving it and bringing a lot of energy. MIN 85, NYK 76

Q4 8:56: Huge alley-oop slam from Rubio to D-Will a couple minutes ago, just letting the lion out of the cage there. Wolves are up seven right now and are looking good as the energy continues to rise. MIN 81, NYK 74

End Q3: What a quarter from Luke Ridnour. He was the catalyst in an 8-0 run that turned this game into a six-point lead for the Wolves. Ridnour hit three straight baskets for the Wolves at a pivotal moment when they were trying to re-take the lead, and his corner three after great ball-movement made it a two point Minnesota advantage. He had 12 points in that frame and now has a team-high 20 points. He and Rubio have combined for 14-of-22 shooting tonight. MIN 76, NYK 70

Q3 2:52: The Wolves continue to hang close here thanks to limiting the Knicks' 3-point attempts and putting together a strong 34-22 edge in the paint. We just got our first glimpse of Chris Johnson here tonight. He hadn't played in the first half but he's gotten a minute of playing time before this timeout. He's been a fan favorite since he got here and he got a nice reception as he got into the game for the first time. NYK 70, MIN 68

Q3 6:16: Adelman elected to go with Rubio-Ridnour-Shved in the back court tonight to start the second half in place of Gelabale at the 3, and it worked as the Wolves went on an 11-0 run that put them up two. It's been back and fourth since, with New York up four at the moment. But during that 11-0 run, Pek scored seven points, and he's got nine points this half. NYK 63, MIN 59

Halftime: New York ended the half on a 14-7 run and takes a 52-45 lead into the half. The Wolves have got a big boost out of their back court in the first half, as Ridnour and Rubio combined for 7-of-13 shooting for 16 points. Shved has chipped in eight points, and Barea had four before leaving the game in the second with an apparent leg injury. He hit the floor on a drive and limped to the locker room with athletic trainer Gregg Farnam. More updates on that to come. Pek has seven points and D-Will has six. For the Knicks, Carmelo Anthony has 16 points while Steve Novak has nine and Jason Kidd and J.R. Smith each have seven. The Knicks are shooting 60 percent from 3, while the Wolves hold a 24-10 points in the paint advantage. The Wolves need to control the paint like they've done but make sure they don't lose sight of the Knicks' top 3-point shooters like Melo and Novak. Should be a good second half if the Wolves can handle that perimeter game. NYK 52, MIN 45

Q2 1:21: Mr. Rubio is doing his thing tonight. He's got seven points and five assists on 3-of-6 shooting, and he also has two boards. He's been driving to the lane with authority, and if he can do that as well as spot up off picks he's going to be seeing much more space for his passing. And no question, the energy he brings not only helps the team but energizes the crowd. NYK 48, MIN 45

Q2 5:55: The Wolves were at a critical point three minutes ago when they fell behind by eight, really facing a crossroads of getting down by double digits against a dangerous team on their home court. But the Wolves responded with an 8-0 run, including a tough contested shot at the hoop by Barea that tied it up. Rubio also had a nice drive and basket while drawing the foul, and he converted his free throw for the old-fashioned 3-point play. MIN 38, NYK 38

Q2 8:52: The Knicks are starting to heat up a bit from the outside, and that doesn't bode well for the Wolves because they have a lot of guys who can hit from the perimeter at a high efficiency. They're 5-of-11 tonight so far from 3-point range, and they're leading the league in 3-pointers per game. Novak is 2-of-2 off the bench already, and Felton, Kidd and Smith all have one. Meanwhile, the Wolves continue to get production from Shved as he has seven points off the bench. Minnesota is 0-for-3 from distance, which could become a factor if New York continues to be hot, but the Wolves' biggest concern needs to be getting contested shots outside on the defensive end. NYK 38, MIN 30

End Q1: We've had a major development here at Target Center. Turns out a Knicks fan has kidnapped Crunch during his birthday party. Just saw the ransom video on the jumbotron as Crunch's friends, including TC, Goldy, the Raptors' mascot and more, hang out here at Target Center. Stay tuned. Meanwhile, the Wolves have cut it to two here in the first quarter thanks to a goal tend on Stoudemire that was credited to Shved. Pek has seven points and Williams has six for Minnesota, while Melo is 5-of-9 with 11 points for New York. NYK 25, MIN 23

Q1 2:14: Derrick Williams had a lapse earlier in the ballgame as he stood behind the half court line and didn't move forward to receive a pass from Pek as he saved a ball from going out of bounds. That didn't sit well with Adelman or Pek as it ended up in a back court violation. But D-Will has had about four strong consecutive minutes since, driving to the hoop on both Stoudemire and Chandler and converting or drawing the foul. He's got six points and two boards so far tonight. The Wolves have evened their field goal percentage out at 50 percent (7-of-14) and trail by three as Melo continues to shine (nine points, 4-of-6). NYK 20, MIN 17

Q1 5:26: Neither team is opening up particularly crisp tonight, as the Wolves are shooting 4-of-9 and the Knicks are 4-of-10 from the field to start the contest. We've seen some interesting developments, too, as Ricky Rubio has found himself guarding Melo twice in the first six minutes. Melo hasn't been able to convert either time. Meanwhile, Pekovic has been able to handle the double-teams of Chandler and Melo on the offensive end, and he's got a team-high five points so far tonight. NYK 10, MIN 9

PG-Jason Kidd, SG-Raymond Felton, SF-Iman Shumpert, PF-Carmelo Anthony, C-Tyson Chandler

Wolves: PG-Ricky Rubio, SG-Luke Ridnour, SF-Mickael Gelabale, PF-Derrick Williams, C-Nikola Pekovic

Pregame 6:25 PM — What to watch for: Knicks coach Mike Woodson expects the Timberwolves to try and play a little up-tempo ball tonight against them, particularly because he said they like to push the ball at home. That plays into Ricky Rubio's strength with his court vision and facilitating on the fast break, and it's something we've seen more and more out of him over the last week or two.

"We've got to make sure sure that we're not turning the basketball over, that we're able to get back and set our half-court defense, and see if they can come through that," Woodson said. "Offensively, we've got to share the basketball, get it moving from side to side, and we've got to make shots."

For the Wolves, coach Rick Adelman said Minnesota's biggest decision comes with who guards Carmelo Anthony. If they go with Mickael Gelabale, who will start at the 3 in place of Andrei Kirilenko, they risk Melo being able to back him down into the paint with his size advantage. If they go with D-Will or Dante, Melo will have an advantage on the perimeter.

"He's always attacking the basket and getting to the line," Adelman said. "It's one of those things...And they've got a nice inside game, not only Anthony but [Amare] Stoudemire now."

Speaking of the Knicks' inside game, Stoudemire is averaging 14.2 points and 4.6 rebounds in 23 minutes per game since returning 17 games ago, all of those contests coming off the bench. It makes for a scary proposition having a $100 million man coming off the bench with guys like J.R. Smith, who is averaging 16.2 points per game from the perimeter. Meanwhile, center Tyson Chandler is making his first All-Star appearance this year and is putting up 11.6 points and 11.3 rebounds a night to go along with his already stellar defensive presence—he is the NBA's defending Defensive Player of the Year.

But the Wolves took the Knicks down to the wire last time out on Dec. 23 and really need this game tonight as they hit the road for two games at Memphis and Cleveland before one final game at home against Utah before the All-Star Break.

"It's definitely going to be important," Dante Cunningham said. "We need this just for the team going forward—going through this tough stretch."

Pregame 5:10 — Limiting Carmelo Anthony:The Knicks present a unique brand of basketball that makes them tough to defend. Not only do they have one of the top scorers in the league in Carmelo Anthony—who has the size to battle down low but also the touch and quickness to score from anywhere—but they also have a bruising center in Tyson Chandler and a myriad of shooters who can hit from deep.

So the question is, where does a team begin when attempting to defend this team?

“First thing we have to understand is we have to protect the paint first,” Dante Cunningham said. “You can’t just allow them to kind of take the middle and then be able to kick out for threes. We have to start in and then get out and then run them off the 3-point line as much as possible.”

Easier said than done.

New York has five players who average 11 points per game or more, led by Anthony’s 28.5 per night. They also shoot 38.4 percent from behind the arc—second in the league—and average a league-best 11.2 makes from distance per night.

Anthony is the catalyst. He’s played a lot at the 4 spot this year, moving over from his traditional spot at the 3, and he’s made the most of it. Anthony is one of the game’s best isolation players, but he can also post up and connect from outside. His presence really stretches the floor and forces defenses to account for him at all times.

He’s averaging his most points per game since 2006-07, and he’s putting up the second best 3-point percentage (.415) of his career.

Mickael Gelabale played against Anthony both when he was with Seattle in 2006-08 as well as on the French National Team in London. He didn’t offer much many tricks on how to contain Anthony, because it’s not that simple.

Cunningham agreed.

“Limiting his good looks—forcing him in a direction he doesn’t’ really want to go,” Cunningham said. “He’s a great scorer, so you know he can score in any direction, but you want to take the lesser of two evils.”

Pregame 4:40 PM — Rubio mirroring Kidd's career: Rubio also addressed his possible similarities to New York’s Jason Kidd, an 18-year veteran who transformed his game over the course of his career with much more focus on his 3-point shot.

“I've been following him for a long time,” Rubio said of Kidd. “He's a great point guard. He took the Mavericks to the championship, and he's been one of the top point guards in the league. He's been improving his shot a lot, and it's something that I have to look at. Because when he came to the league, maybe he couldn't shoot as good. Now he's one of the best.”

Kidd noted that as a young player, he tended to stick with the skills he felt strongest at, including his natural court vision. It’s a big reason why with three assists tonight he’ll reach 12,000 for his career.

Gradually, with more comfort, he acquired a touch for shooting from long-distance as well.

“You rely on your strengths when you come into the league, and then over time he’ll work on shooting the ball. At that point, he’ll have the total package.”

Kidd entered the league when Rubio was just a toddler, and his game was similar to the Spaniard’s natural abilities.

“For me, it was defending and finding the open guy,” Kidd said of his early days. “Now I get a lot more shots up behind the arc just because I’m open.”

Rubio’s training is already under way, as he often stays after practice with assistant coach Terry Porter and works on his shooting mechanics.

“It's been better, especially with the legs coming back,” Rubio said. “I feel more comfortable after dribble, able to jump and get up my shot. I am working on it. I am trying to get more arc.”

Pregame 4:00 PM — Rubio reflects on Rising Stars selection: Greetings from Target Center, where the Timberwolves will be taking on the New York Knickerbockers in the final game of their six-game homestand over the past week and a half. The Wolves are 1-4 so far on this homestand and could really use a win here tonight. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on both Fox Sports North and 830 WCCO-AM.

Ricky Rubio spoke to media today following last night’s BBVA Rising Stars Challenge draft, one where he was selected by Charles Barkley to play for TEAM CHUCK and attend NBA All-Star Weekend for the second straight year.

This year, however, Rubio was a late addition. Honorary Commissioner of the event Kenny Smith added Rubio and Kings guard Isaiah Thomas as late entries to the draft pool, and for that, Rubio is grateful.

“I'm going to give [Smith] a big present,” Rubio said with a smile.

Last year’s event, where Rubio recorded 13 points, seven assists and three rebounds for TEAM SHAQ, is still a fresh memory in the young guard’s mind.

Here are some pregame notes to ponder before tonight’s game:

  • The Wolves trail in the all-time series 19-26, but are 12-10 at home. The Knicks have won the last three meetings, including a 94-91 victory at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 23 behind 33 points from Carmelo Anthony -- including 19 in the fourth quarter.

  • The Wolves enter tonight in the 12th position in the Western Conference, 6.5 games behind Houston for the final playoff spot. Minnesota is 12-11 at Target Center this season.

  • Minnesota has used 13 different starting lineups this season (15 in 2011-12). The most games for any Wolves starting lineup this season is eight posted by the Kirilenko, Love, Pekovic, Ridnour and Shved lineup (4-4 record).

  • Over the last six games, Ricky Rubio is averaging 10.8 points, 8.5 assists and 2.33 steals in 29.7 minutes per game. He has dished out 6+ assists in 11 of the last 12 contests.

  • Nikola Pekovic is averaging 17.7 points, on 52.9% shooting, and 9.9 rebounds in his last 23 games (12 double-doubles). He ranks 3rd in the NBA in offensive rebounds with 3.9 per game. Pekovic has pulled down at least one offensive board in 51 straight games, the 4th-longest active streak in the NBA (Kevin Love - 75, Anderson Varejao - 57, Tyson Chandler - 53).

  • Dante Cunningham is averaging 11.4 points, on .544 shooting, in 28.1 minutes over the last nine games.

  • J.J. Barea is shooting 46.7% (49-for-105) in the last nine games, averaging 13.6 ppg over that stretch. He is a team-leading +36 when on the floor this season.

  • At 31-16, New York has the 2nd-best record in the Eastern Conference, 1.5 games behind the Miami Heat. The Knicks lost at Washington on Wednesday to end their five-game winning streak. New York is 4-5 in its last nine road games, 12-10 overall.

  • The Knicks rank 2nd in the NBA in three-point field goal percentage at 38.4%. Individually, Steve Novak ranks third at 44.4% and Carmelo Anthony is 17th at 41.5%.

  • The Knicks allow the fewest steals per game at 6.06 per contest and are 2nd in the league in steal differential at +2.00.

  • Carmelo Anthony ranks 2nd in the NBA in scoring at 28.5 ppg, and leads the league in first quarter scoring at 8.6 ppg. He has scored 30+ points 16 times this season.

  • Tyson Chandler had his streak of three games with 20+ rebounds stopped Wednesday at Washington when he pulled down 13 boards. He ranks 5th overall in rebounding at 11.3 rpg and is 1st in offensive rebounds with 4.5. Chandler also ranks 1st in the NBA in field goal percentage at 67.0% (205-for-305).

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