With all the running around for the holidays, I finally got the chance late last night to sit down and watch the Knicks’s thrilling comeback victory over the Timberwolves at Madison Square Garden to finish our six-game home stand at 4-2. The same bad defense that defined our recent losses to the Rockets and Bulls was an issue in the first half, but the Knicks clamped down in the remaining two quarters to hopefully have some momentum later today in Los Angeles against the surging Lakers. Here’s my thoughts on our last victory to put us at 20-7.
REFS ARE STILL TRASH: The referees weren’t as bad as they were in the Bulls game, but their incompetence nearly cost us the game. There was no consistentcy in the calls and Melo’s late fouls that clearly showed a bias against him. One was a ridiculous offensive foul and the other was simply jocking for position inside for a rebound. Keep in mind Melo was getting hacked all night when trying to score in the post. You can’t even say the refs were trying to help out the Wolves because they gave us several make-up no calls down the stretch.
MELO the MVP: After every game it’s getting harder and harder to deny Melo’s MVP credentials. We looked to be dead in the water on offense during the closing minutes with Melo picking up his fifth foul and Coach Woodson a technical to give the Wolves a four-point lead. Instead, Melo would reel off 19 of the team’s 23 fourth quarter points. A three-pointer with less than 3 minutes left trimmed the Wolves lead to 86-85. A stop lead to Melo getting back in the post for a lauyp and a foul to extend the lead to 88-86. Melo would then live at the line the rest of the way in making six straight clutch free throws to seal the deal. We can’t expect this every night, but it’s great insurance to know Melo can bail us out even when overall he’s had a bad shooting night (10-25, 3-10 from downtown). Melo’s 9/10 from the free throw line was huge.
SAVED BY DEFENSE: The Wolves didn’t have Kevin Love, but that didn’t stop them from dropping 55 points in the first half behind a dominant post game from Pekovic, who had 21 points points and 17 rebounds. Tyson Chandler did his part in limiting Pekovic’s output to single digits in the second half. When that happened, it was all on the Wolves guards of J.J. Barea and Ridnour to score. While they had solid scoring nights of 14 and 12 respectively, their shooting was off during the key final minutes. The Knicks held serve with allowing only 36 points in the second half and forcing 17 turnovers.
The pivotal defensive stand of the game came in the final three minutes where the Wolves had four chances to score off two offensive rebounds and fouls. Each time the Knicks turned them back and Melo immediately drained a three to take the lead for good.
STAY THE COURSE, JR SMITH: For the third straight game JR Smith has remained on point. As the only other player on the team talented enough to create their own shot consistently, the Knicks struggle badly when he’s off. Against the Wolves he had 19 points on 7-15 shooting and 7 assists. He’s finding himself coming into the game quicker these days as starting guard Ronnie Brewer (0 points, 3 rebounds) is in a horrible runt now that his three-pointer isn’t falling. Aside from a horrible blunder in the final minute that lead to the ball being taken away and the Wolves sinking an open trey, Smith was fantastic.
The Knicks are back at it later today against the Lakers. With the Heat playing the Thunder, this is a game we absolutely need to get back to our rightful spot atop the East.