Getting some shots to fall for once, the Wolves used 21 points
from Ricky Davis and put together their most complete performance
of the season to beat the New York Knicks 107-89 on Wednesday
"It always feels great when you work on things to finally start
putting it together. Hopefully we can carry this over," said Mike
James, who scored 16 points.
Nothing the Knicks have been working on came together. They
failed to take advantage of Minnesota's recently vulnerable
transition defense and had only four fast-break points, an awful
total for a guard-centric team that is geared to run.
Steve Francis, replaced in the starting lineup by Jamal
Crawford, came off the bench to score 19 points, but there was
nothing to smile about afterward in a subdued New York locker room.
"We were bad all the way around," coach Isiah Thomas said,
before cutting short his interview session.
The perpetual search for second and third options to complement
Garnett has been a major part of Timberwolves history, and with
only one advancement past the first round of the playoffs it's
obvious the quest has been mostly unsuccessful.
With Davis and James, there is potential, though, as they proved
in this game.
"It's what we need," Garnett said.
There was more. Mark Blount had a season-high 17 points on
7-for-9 shooting, reserve Marko Jaric chipped in 10 points, and
Minnesota shot a season-best 52.8 percent from the field while
owning a 26-10 assists advantage.
The Wolves, who ranked third-to-last in the league in scoring
coming into the game, have topped 100 points only three times this
season and -- surprise! -- have won all of those contests.
Most satisfying, though, was that transition defense after the
Wolves let the Hornets score 41 points on the fast break last
Saturday. Chris Paul was way too much for Minnesota to handle, but
the Wolves have another crack at him on Friday in Oklahoma City.
The key to Minnesota's offensive success -- beside using
Garnett's all-around skills -- is hitting the open jump shots when
they're there. And the Wolves got key makes by just about everyone,
including their new point guard, James, who has not produced
offensively so far like he or the team has hoped.
The Knicks threatened midway through the third quarter, a 9-0
run that cut the lead to 64-49 with 6½ minutes left. But James
stopped that with a driving layup and sank a pair of 3-pointers
over the balance of the period to give his team some more space.
"It was definitely important, especially with trying to give
Kevin help," James said. "You know he can't do it all by
New York fell behind 29-10 and never got closer than 12 points
after the first quarter. Crawford scored 19, and Stephon Marbury
added 18, but the Knicks -- according to Thomas -- didn't play as a
team on either end of the court in their most disappointing
performance to date.
"When you lose like this, you can point to everybody," he
Searching for a spark, not only for the team but for the
struggling Francis, Thomas sent the three-time All-Star to the
bench and summoned leading scorer Crawford to start.
"I'm willing to do what it takes to help the team. I don't want
to make a big issue out of it. We just need to play better as a
team," said Francis, who repeatedly downplayed the significance of
his new role.
"It might not help us tonight, but hopefully it helps us in the
Quentin Richardson was scoreless without attempting a shot
in 18 minutes for New York. "I just didn't have any open looks,"
he said ... In light of New York's lineup change, Minnesota coach
Dwane Casey was asked before the game if he'd consider the same
kind of shakeup. Defensive stopper Trenton Hassell would be the
most likely candidate to become a reserve. But Casey said he
wouldn't, and that reallocations of playing time within his
rotation were a more comfortable method for him. ... The Knicks are
0-8 when scoring fewer than 100 points.