By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Timberwolves | Target Center
When: Wednesday | 8:00 PM
Where to Watch: MSG
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York (21-40): The Knicks led by as many as 14 points in the first half on Monday night in Detroit, but watched the Pistons chip away after halftime en route to an 11-point win. Andre Drummond's career-high 26 rebounds carried Detroit to a 54-40 edge on the glass, this despite Tyson Chandler's 18 boards. New York got more balanced scoring from its starters than it had in Chicago the day before, with J.R. Smith (16 points) and Amar'e Stoudemire (22) joining Carmelo Anthony (28) in double figures. But as the Knicks suffered their 13th loss in 15 games, they were not able to hang on and make the necessary plays down the stretch.
Minnesota (30-29): Despite a record over .500 and a +4.1 point differential (that would be third-best in the East), the Timberwolves are outside of the playoffs looking in. They are 4.5 games out of the last spot coming into tonight thanks in part to the depth of the Western Conference and also their uncanny knack for losing close games this year. The point diferential suggests that the talent on the roster, led by superstar Kevin Love, should have a better record, and after winning six of seven games, perhaps they are making a late push.
The Numbers Game
The Timberwolves are one of five teams (along with the Clippers, Rockets, Spurs, Thunder) to rank in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency.
Matchup to Watch
Raymond Felton vs. Ricky Rubio
Like most of his teammates, the Knicks' point guard has struggled of late; Felton has scored a total of 22 points and dished out 17 assists over the last four games -- good for averages of 5.5 and 4.25, respectively. The Knicks need him to be more assertive and efficient in the pick-and-roll if they hope to turn things around. Rubio is a prolific passer, averaging over eight assists per game, and a long-armed defender, but he is not much of a scorer. This year, the third-year floor leader is shooting 36.4 percent from the field, among the worst rates in the league.
What to Look For
Coach Mike Woodson elected to start Smith and Stoudemire in place of Pablo Prigioni and Iman Shumpert on Monday and is expected to do the same tonight. The key to beating the Wolves starts with containing Love, who has developed into one of the game's best all-around players, averaging 26.6 points and 13.2 rebounds per game. Not only is the big man a load in the post, but he's a threat from downtown, where he's shooting 38 percent. The problem for Minnesota is that the only other shooter is Kevin Martin (also 38%) and the team ranks 27th in the league in three-point shooting. Rick Adelman's rotation goes at least nine players deep on most nights.