Knicks 121, T-Wolves, 114

The Knicks are not only relevant again these days, but they’re actually kind of good.

Fueled by a manic fourth-quarter comeback, the Knicks staved off a very competitive Minnesota Timberwolves team, 121-114, last night at the Garden. Led by Amare Stoudemire’s team-high 34 points and some clutch late-game buckets by Danilo Gallinari, the Knicks [13-9] won for the 10th time in 11 games, including five straight.

The Knicks put down the clamps defensively on Minnesota [5-16] in the second half, a far cry from the 63-percent effort the Timberwolves had in the first half in which they scored 36 points. They held Minnesota to only 18 points in the third after allowing an eye-popping 68 points in the first half. Minnesota started the game hot knocking down its first nine shots and were led by Kevin Love’s 11 first-quarter points.

"They were making shot after shot after shot," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said.

Michael Beasley and Darko Milicic also notched 10 apiece in a quarter that featured an 11-point T-wolves lead and almost 75 percent shooting from the field, including almost 60 percent from three. Love finished with 33 points and 15 rebounds, while Beasley added 25 points.

Minnesota took a seven-point lead into the locker room but then sputtered after the break, as the Knicks got after it on the defensive end, forcing the Timberwolves into poor shot selection and only 10 points after the first seven minutes. At that same pace, New York notched 21 of their 31 third-quarter points and took a six-point lead into the fourth quarter. Raymond Felton was the catalyst as he had nine points in the third and also added three assists. He finished with 18 points and a game-high 10 assists.

The fourth quarter was much of the same energy, as Felton, Chandler, Gallo, and Stoudemire took over the stanza. The biggest surprise, however, was the extended play of Shawne Williams, who tallied eight of his 13 points in the third quarter and played valuable crunchtime minutes in the fourth, including a big three down the stretch. Head coach Mike D’Antoni has grown fond of the hard-working and sweet-shooting Williams over the weeks and the young vet has paid off in recent games. Reigning NBA Rookie of Month Landry Fields, who gave way to Williams in the fourth, still contributed with 10 rebounds. He continues to lead all guards in that category.

With very winnable games against the Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards on the horizon – and a renewed focus on the defensive end -- the Knicks may permanently go from novice to actual Eastern Conference threat.

What went right:

1 Starter shines — Wilson Chandler continued his torrid stretch since being inserted into the starting lineup following Ronny Turiaf’s knee injury last week. Chandler poured in 21 points, including 10 in the opening quarter, to go along with five assists and two steals. He was a key contributor in the manic third quarter when the Knicks fought their way back into the lead after trailing by seven at halftime.

2 Leading the charge — Raymond Felton also had his fingerprints all over the third quarter, scoring eight points and recording three assists and four steals. The point guard outplayed Luke Ridnour and finished with 18 points, 11 assists and four steals. Minnesota shot lights out to score 36 in the opening quarter, but Felton settled down in the third and led an efficient Knicks offensive attack that featured plenty of Amare Stoudemire, who poured in 34 points.

3 Closing the deal — Defensively, the Knicks put out all the stops in the second half— even on Kevin Love, who had 21 points in the first quarter. The T-Wolves shot 63 percent from the field in the opening half and led by as many as 11. But something happened to the Knicks after the break, as they shut down the once-potent Minnesota shooters, yielding only 18 points in the third. “We woke up,” Mike D’Antoni said.

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