By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Timberwolves | Madison Square Garden
When: Wednesday | 7:30 PM
Where to Watch: MSG
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York: After opening the season with back-to-back games, the Knicks got a chance to catch their breath before tonight's test at the Garden. They split the first two, defeating Milwaukee at home and then losing by one in Chicago when Carmelo Anthony's last-second jumper glanced off the rim. New pieces are being integrated into the rotation, including Andrea Bargnani and rookie Tim Hardaway Jr., and so far, the defense appears to ahead of the offense. Assistant Coach Jim Todd told Jonah Ballow that the goal is to hold teams below 95 points this year, and they've been successful with that in the first two games.
Minnesota: The Timberwolves have been considered a playoff contender for the past few years, but injuries have kept getting in the way. Rick Adelman's team is healthy now, and looking good early on. After beating Orlando in overtime, they put a 19-point drubbing on Oklahoma City on Friday behind their big three of Kevin Love (24 points and 12 rebounds), Ricky Rubio (14 points and 10 assists), and Nikola Pekovic (15 points and 10 rebounds).
The Numbers Game
After struggling with injuries toward the end of last season, Tyson Chandler seems to have regained the form that made him an All-Star. Through two games, he has pulled down 25 rebounds and blocked nine shots.
Matchup to Watch
Carmelo Anthony vs. Kevin Love
Two of the premier forwards in the game, Anthony and Love do things differently but are equally important to their teams' success. Love is a brilliant passer and rebounder and causes headaches for defenses with his ability to stretch the floor out to three-point range. "He's a load," said Melo after Saturday's practice. "He's a legit power forward." His numbers through two games (27.5 points and 14.5 rebounds) might be a little inflated, but that's the kind of production Minnesota fans hope for from the guy who missed 64 games a year ago with various injuries. Melo has played both forward spots this year as Mike Woodson searches for the right lineup combinations, struggling to shoot 40 percent from the field but staying agressive.
What to Look For
The Knicks focus, as it always is, will be on protecting home court tonight. Woodson has always stressed the importance of winning at home, and with two straight at the Garden, New York is hoping to head to Charlotte on Friday with a 3-1 record. We'll see how Bargnani continues to work his way into the groove; after logging only 17 minutes in the opener, he played more than 24 against Chicago and caught fire for a stretch in the second half and ending up with nine points on 4-of-7 shooting -- an encouraging sign for Knicks fans. Hardaway and Iman Shumpert have been solid on the wings so far; their combination of shooting, athleticism and defensive intensity could provide an edge for the home team against Minnesota's wings, Kevin Martin and Corey Brewer.