The Minnesota Timberwolves matched their longest undefeated start in franchise history Sunday night, beating the New York Knicks 109-100 in a sold out Madison Square Garden to improve their record to 3-0.
Minnesota's three-game winning streak to start the season was last accomplished in 2001, and facing Cleveland on the road Monday night, they are in a favorable position to set a new franchise mark.
Another franchise rarity was reached, as the Wolves boasted a pair of 30-point scorers for just the 18th time in team history. Kevin Love led the Wolves again in the stat sheet, getting 34 points and 15 rebounds for his third double-double of the season. Kevin Martin was close behind with 30 points, making 9 of 12 field goals, including a 5-of-5 mark from three-point range. Ricky Rubio added 10 assists.
New York (1-2) was paced by Carmelo Anthony with 22 points and 17 rebounds. Metta World Peace added 17 off the bench, but the Knicks dealt with a short-handed roster in Sunday's contest; Amar'e Stoudemire did not play due to knee problems and J.R. Smith is serving a five-game suspension.
Minnesota's patterns in the early portion of the season held form. The Wolves employed another blistering assault in the first quarter, outscoring the Knicks 40-19 in the period. Minnesota hit 66.7 percent of their shots in the first, with Love and Martin passing the double-digit mark in scoring.
Those early points proved vital in the fourth, when the Knicks assembled a counter-attack. Shots were barren for the Wolves, who made only 22 percent of their field goals while the Knicks rallied with a 47 percent clip. With the surge, New York diminished a 23-point shortfall to two with 4:49 remaining.
New York's momentum would crumble immediately after Iman Shumpert's triple left the Wolves with a 100-98 lead. Pablo Prigioni was assessed a technical foul, and Martin would hit the free throw and follow with a trey of his own. The Knicks earned just two points in the final 4:49 as the Wolves slowly escaped a threatening situation.
"We're happy where we're at. But we know we still have to take a couple more steps to be that team that we know we can be once April comes," Martin said.
One reason for Martin's happiness is Minnesota's persistence in earning free throws. They hit 29 of 38 shots on Sunday, compared to an 11-of-13 showing for the Knicks. In every game this season, the Wolves advantage from the line has been 10 points or more.
Large leads in danger of evaporating has caused some agitation among locals, but the relatively healthy Wolves have spruced up ball movement and resistance against adversity, piquing the hopes of a restless fan base.