The Knicks continued their disturbing trend of showing little energy early and falling into a hole, only to fight back in vain, as they dropped a disappointing 109-100 decision to the Timberwolves.
Whether it’s blowing big leads or coming out sluggish and allowing the opponent to jump all over them, the Knicks (1-2) have yet to find their rhythm, and according to head coach Mike Woodson, it’s a rut they need to break out of quickly.
“That was the difference in the game. I thought the second, third and fourth quarter we played pretty good basketball, but you can’t come out on your homecourt and dig a hole,” Woodson said when recounting the discrepancy in points allowed in the first and final quarters. “You can’t spot a team 21 points and then [have] to fight so tough to get back into the game. ... It’s tough to swallow, especially when you come into the game holding your first two opponents close to 82 points per game.”
The Knicks’ defense let down their coach as they allowed the upstart Timberwolves (3-0) to feel right at home in scoring 40 first-quarter points and jumping out to a 23-point lead.
New York was led by Carmelo Anthony’s 22 points, but they weren’t enough to offset the balanced attack of the Timberwolves. Minnesota was led by Kevin Love’s 34 points and 15 rebounds, while also receiving 30 points from Kevin Martin.
“This is a good team. They’re well-balanced with Love anchoring everything and Martin having his way. But you can’t have two guys come into your arena and getting 30 each. That can’t happen,” said Woodson. “Defensively, we’ve been pretty good. A lot of the points allowed in the beginning was on turnovers. We need better court balance in making more passes.”
There wasn’t much balance from a Knicks’ offense that only shot 44.9 percent from the field, including 28.1 percent on 3-pointers, and failed to be aggressive by only getting to the line 13 times.
Metta World Peace added 17 points and Andrea Bargnani chipped in with 14 points for the Knicks, including 12 in the first half, to finally give the Garden crowd something to cheer about following his rough Knicks’ debut. But while it was good for the role players to finally shake their early-season doldrums, it was the stars who added little, namely point guard Raymond Felton, who only had eight points on 3-of-12 shooting.
Woodson said the real factor behind the early deficit and the fact his team just couldn’t clear the hurdle was the reliance on wayward 3-point shots and the team’s inability to get to the free-throw line.
“There were times [they took too many 3s] but I thought the biggest difference was the free-throw attempts [38-13]. We settled too much, especially when guys are flying out to you. Then you should be putting the ball on the floor and get to the hole,” said Woodson. “When we made the run and cut it to less than three, we got 3-point happy and we settled. And then Love made a big 3 and I think that was the biggest of the game.”
Despite getting back to within a one-possession game, it never felt as if the Knicks were ever really in the game. The uphill battle spent all their energy and they eventually ran out of gas.
Tyson Chandler didn’t sound too dismayed, noting all the Knicks’ problems are correctable with more practice and film study.
“That [early deficits] is something that we have to change. We obviously dug ourselves out of a hole that we couldn’t get out of,” said Chandler. “But a lot of it was early turnovers. We were just throwing the ball away and they were turning those into easy layups. Between that and breakdowns in communication, we gave away too many easy buckets. But once we stopped those easy buckets we made it a game and made it easier on ourselves. ... It’s more about pride. We need to hold ourselves to a certain standard.”
Knicks notes ...
» Love wasn’t the only dominating T-Wolves big man as center Nikola Pekovic added 11 points and 12 rebounds, including nine and 11 in the first half when his brawn was a real factor.
» Point guard Ricky Rubio, once the object of the Knicks brass’ affection when he entered the 2011 NBA Draft, didn’t shoot particularly well (3-of-11) but he managed the tempo expertly and contributed eight points, six rebounds, 10 assists and three steals.
» Anthony got off to a slow start, and it took a near-heroic effort in the fourth quarter to salvage his percentage, as he shot just 2-of-9 in the first half.
» The Knicks had 16 turnovers, down from their average of 18 per game.
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.