After winning their season opening game against the Milwaukee Bucks, the New York Knicks have now lost two straight games with their latest defeat occurring in Sunday's contest with the Minnesota Timberwolves, which they lost 109-100. The Knicks eventually tried to make a game of it in the fourth quarter, but their rally fell short as they were simply trying to come back from too much and relying on the Timberwolves to regress to the mean before the game ended. The Timberwolves did not, and the Knicks' record now stands at 1-2 for the season.
While the nine-point margin of victory for the Timberwolves suggests that the game was a closely contested affair throughout, the truth is that the Knicks really did not join the game until there were eight minutes left in the fourth quarter. A Carmelo Anthony 16-foot jumper decreased the Knicks' deficit to nine points, the first time the game had been a single-digit affair since the first quarter. The Knicks eventually whittled the Timberwolves' lead down to two points with 4:48 left in the game, but they could not get any closer than that as the Timberwolves answered their challenge at every turn. With the clutch play demonstrated by Kevin Love and Kevin Martin, who combined to score 11 of the Timberwolves' final 12 points, the Timberwolves refused to relinquish their lead and allow the Knicks to complete a most improbable comeback.
Had the Knicks played the entire game like they did in the fourth quarter, perhaps the outcome of the game would have been different, but unfortunately for the Knicks, their defense proved so porous so early and their offense so anemic that it did not matter that they were able to turn it on in the latter stages of the game. In the first quarter, the Timberwolves went on a 31-8 run to build a 21-point lead by the end of the period; during that stretch in the first quarter, the Timberwolves scored on 15 of their 16 offensive possessions, seemingly putting away the game early.
The Timberwolves mostly maintained that lead over the next two quarters, holding a 15-point lead at the ends of both the second and third quarters, in large part because the Knicks offense wasted many of their possessions with a plethora of missed shots and turnovers; missed shots and turnovers were what eventually doomed the Knicks comeback as well. On the other hand, the defense kept the team out of the game by fouling the Timberwolves repeatedly throughout the game; the Timberwolves finished the game with 38 free-throw attempts, of which they made 29.
The Knicks did manage to finish the game with an effective field goal percentage of 50.0 percent and having scored 105.1 points per 100 possessions, but the fact they were unable to match the Timberwolves' ability to convert from the free throw line and limit turnovers doomed the Knicks to a defeat.
While the nine-point defeat was not an embarrassing one for the Knicks, it did underscore some issues they will need to correct going forward. If the Knicks want to win more games and play in a more efficient manner, they will need to remember, or learn, how to play defense without fouling while limiting turnovers on offense and converting more of their shot opportunities. Should they prove unable to do so, there will be more losses for the Knicks on the horizon.