Wolves Go Cold In Fourth Quarter, Fall To Knicks 100-98

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman had a defensive game plan set up for Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin, who during New York’s four games leading into Saturday had transformed from a bench player to a go-to scorer.

Forcing Lin to his left and building walls to the open basket in transitions, Adelman said, were two major keys to keeping him in check. For much of the second half the Wolves did just that, as Lin was 1-of-12 shooting after halftime for a total of five points.

But it was in the final moments of Saturday’s 100-98 loss to New York that Lin broke free, and it ultimately was the difference in the game. Lin drove to his right, drew a foul on Luke Ridnour and broke a 98-98 tie by making the second of his two free throws.

“Going to his right he’s really aggressive and he gets all the way (to the basket),” Adelman said. “They play he got at the end, for instance, where he got fouled, we let him get to his right hand rather than keep him on the left side of the court. That was the basic plan.”

Forward Kevin Love got the final shot of the night, a fade-away 3-pointer for the win as time expired that wouldn’t fall.

It was a bitter end to a game that featured the Wolves’ largest home crowd since 2004—an announced 20,232 were on hand—and it was a game Minnesota had multiple chances to put away. Instead, it’s the Wolves’ third straight defeat while the Knicks (13-15) escape with their fifth consecutive win.

The Timberwolves (13-15) led by as many as 10 in the third quarter, but by the time Lin made his free throw with 4.9 seconds on the clock the Wolves trailed by 99-98. Advancing the ball to half court after a timeout, Minnesota had an opportunity to take the lead but lost the ball out of bounds without getting off a shot. It was the Wolves’ 23rd turnover of the night—combined with 28 from Friday’s 104-97 loss to Dallas, Minnesota has 51 turnovers in a pair of losses by a combined nine points.

“It just comes down to turnovers,” forward Derrick Williams said. “We did the same thing earlier in the season. We had a couple games with a lot of turnovers, and we came back and really fixed that. We just have to get back to it.”

But turnovers were only part of the issue Saturday. The Wolves were shooting 52 percent from the floor heading into the fourth, but a 3-of-19 shooting performance in the final frame opened up the door for New York. The Knicks, who trailed by five heading into the quarter, outscored the Wolves 18-11 in the fourth to seal the win.

The Knicks turned the ball over seven times in the fourth alone, but the Wolves weren’t able to capitalize.

“We’re used to executing down the stretch, getting stops and winning basketball games,” Love said. “Obviously we’re a young team and we just need to continue to grow and grow as a unit.”

The late loss spoiled another masterful game from Love against the Knicks. He scored 32 points and added 21 rebounds on the night—a year ago, he averaged 32.0 points per game against New York in two contests and put up 31 points and 31 rebounds against them on Nov. 12, 2010. It was the first 30/30 game in the NBA since 1982.

Center Nikola Pekovic tallied his fifth double-double of the season with 21 points and 13 rebounds, while Ricky Rubio scored 12 points and eight assists and JJ Barea had 11 points and five assists.

Rubio, the Wolves’ rookie point guard sensation, drove through the lane and scored on a lay-up with 39.9 seconds left to give Minnesota a 98-95 lead and seemingly put the Timberwolves in control. But coming out of a timeout, New York’s Steve Novak hit a game-tying 3-pointer that set up Lin’s game-winning free throw.

“Defensively I think we made two big mistakes letting Novak open for 3,” Barea said. “We just can’t do that.”

Lin, who averaged 28.5 points in the previous four games, finished with 20 points and eight assists. Iman Shumpert had 20 points, Landry Fields had 19 points and Novak finished with 15 points while shooting 4-of-6 from 3-point range.

Minnesota has an off day before traveling to Orlando on Monday for a 6 p.m. showdown with the Magic. They’ll look to shake off Saturday’s loss and move on.

“It’s a disappointing loss. It really is,” Adelman said. “It’s probably a game we should have gotten.”

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