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Knicks Hold on Against KAT’s Monster Game

Karl-Anthony Towns (David Sherman/Getty Images)

Karl-Anthony Towns (David Sherman/Getty Images)

The New York Knicks (9-9) snap their short 2 game-losing streak, and a 4-game road losing streak, with a win on the road against the Minnesota Timberwolves (5-13) with a narrow 106-104 victory led by Kristaps Porzingis and ended in a clutch shot by Carmelo Anthony on Wednesday night.

The Knicks have struggled on the road this season. This was only their second win on the road. Their first road win came when they defeated the Bulls 117-104 in Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah’s return to Chicago earlier this season. Against the Timberwolves, Rose played against his former coach for the first time, Tom Thibodeau, while Noah was out with a sprained left ankle he suffered in the loss to OKC on Monday.

The headline going into this game was the battle between the 1st overall draft pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, Karl-Anthony Towns vs. the 4th overall draft pick, Kristaps Porzingis. Two players many people believe to be the future of the NBA. Porzingis had a great game with 29 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 block shots. But this performance was overshadowed by the monster game Towns had. KAT had 47 points, 18 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 blocks, and 1 steal. Porzingis, Kyle O’Quinn, Willy Hernangomez, and Marshall Plumlee had no answers to stop this man. Towns made if first 10 shots before missing this 11th shot by a great contest at the basket by Porzingis.

This was the third meeting between the two young big men. In those 3 games Towns is averaging 32 points and 12.3 rebounds on 54% shooting. While Porzingis is averaging 15.3 points and 5.3 rebounds on 42.5%. So Towns may be winning this match-up based off of their individual numbers, but KP and the Knicks came away with the victory in all three games.

Towns did everything he could to try and will his team to a victory, but he had absolutely no help. Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine had decent games with 19 and 17 points respectively. But the Knicks bench outscored the Timberwolves bench 43-5. Mindaugas Kuzminskas had 14 points while Brandon Jennings had 12 points and 7 assists off the bench.

The Knicks had a comfortable 17 point lead in the fourth quarter with about 7:30 minutes left to play, but was wiped away by a Timberwolves 22-5 run to make it 104-104 with just about 24 seconds left in regulation.

With the Knicks final possession, you wonder if they will either go to Porzingis for the final shot or to Carmelo Anthony, who was struggling with his shot the entire game. Anthony was just 4-15 from the field with only 12 points before the last possession of the game. Also the 2 previous games combined, he was only shooting 11-44 from the field.

Anthony seemed to be very passive in the first half of the game. Looking for teammates instead of looking for his own shot. He didn’t take his first field goal attempt until 10 minutes into the first quarter. Even though he had a bad shooting night, he pretty much shot with in the flow of the offense. Which is the type of bad shooting night from Anthony the Knicks can live by.

Anthony is a volume shooter. Once he gets into rhythm, he is nearly unstoppable. But if he’s having an off night, that’s when things can get ugly. That’s usually when he just keeps jacking up shots till he gets his rhythm back. Those are the type of bad shooting nights from Anthony the Knicks can’t live by. If you don’t have your shot going, pass the ball. But despite his off night, the Knicks decided to do was to same thing they did last Friday against the Hornets in their overtime victory in their final possession. Isolate Melo at the elbow. This is where Melo is most dangerous. All he needed was a couple of jab steps on Wiggins to create a little bit of space, then he pulled up to drain the game winning shot. On top of that, he sealed the game by making a deflection on the inbound pass by the T-Wolves to not let them even attempt a final shot.

That’s the one thing the Knick fans have to appreciate. Melo is not afraid of the moment. Melo now has 2 game winning shots in the span of 4 games. Melo being clutch is not a new thing for him, especially in the first half of his career. But in recent years, that has not been the case. These past few years, Knick fans might have gotten use to Melo not stepping up in the fourth quarter. The main reason behind that is the lack of talent surrounded by him. Melo had to carry the team offensively every night. If he had an off night, there was no way the Knicks were winning that game. But now, with Rose and Porzingis on the team, he doesn’t have to carry them offensively every night anymore, especially down the stretch in close games. Both Rose and Porzingis have showed that they are not afraid of taking clutch shots.

The Knicks main goal entering this season is to make the playoffs. For them to make the playoffs they have to be a dominant team at the Garden and win the games they are suppose too on the road. This was one of the games they had to win, against a young and struggling Timberwolves team. They got the job done but that does not hide the fact that they blow a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter.

Jeff Hornacek has done a great job of coaching this year. Which is a breathe of fresh air after Derek Fisher and, now defensive coach, Kurt Rambis. As the season has gone on, you can see Hornacek learn how to use his bench and when and when not to sub players in and out. He’s also not afraid to sub a starter out if it is not working on the court, like he did last night when he subbed Rose out in favor for Jennings who had the hot hand. He seems to have this philosophy of playing the hot hand. If they are playing well, keep them on the court. The Knicks are also much improved in plays after time outs, which they have severely struggled with these past two years.

If the Knicks wants to make the playoffs they have to play better defense consistently. There has been numerous times where I have seen them play great defense for 22 seconds of the shot clock to only give up a wide-open shot or an easy layup at the buzzer. You can complain all you want about the triangle offense, which the barely run, but it’s hard to win games when you are giving up an average of 106.5 points to your opponents, which is ranked 24th in the league.

Next up the Knicks play the Timberwolves again on Friday night at Madison Square Garden. They look to get back on track at home after snapping a 6 game winning streak at home against the Thunder on Monday. Courtney Lee injured his left ankle during the game on Wednesday and did not return. His x-rays came back negative and looks to come back, along with Noah, on Friday.

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