Down 20 at the half, the Wolves made a spirited run in the second half to try to get back into it, but couldn't quite get there. They closed within three with 11 seconds left, but Arron Afflalo made four straight free throws at the end and the Knicks were able to hold them off.
The Wolves made two changes to their starting lineup, though whether either of them will be permanent is unclear. Gorgui Dieng started for Kevin Garnett who was sitting out the second night of a back to back, and Tayshaun Prince started in place of Kevin Martin, who sat out with a sore wrist that was clearly bothering him last night against Denver. Sam Mitchell hinted at a lineup change last night that many speculated would be Prince, but how Martin's availability played into that decision isn't entirely clear.
The game started with high energy from Ricky Rubio, who got three steals in the first few minutes of the game, but the rest of the Wolves did not come with him. Karl-Anthony Towns was in far too much of a hurry to make an impact against fellow rookie Kristaps Porzingis and got off to a sloppy and difficult start, and nobody seemed inclined to score.
This game was really decided in the second quarter during which the Knicks outscored the Wolves 33-14 behind Arron Afflalo, who had 12 in the period (29 overall) in part because the Wolves apparently saw no need to actually guard him. The Knicks went on separate 11-0 and 10-0 runs during the quarter as the Wolves could not stem the tide -- their offense was hurried and ineffective, and the Knicks were getting whatever they wanted offensively.
The story of this game for the Wolves was Ricky Rubio, who raged throughout, particularly in the third quarter when he willed them back into the game both offensively and defensively. He ultimately finished the game two steals and a point away from a quad double, with 9 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists, and an astounding 8 steals. He was absolutely everywhere in his 34 minutes of play; it was absolutely vintage Rubio and about as good as you can play without scoring in double figures. He was a monster.
He finally helped get Karl-Anthony Towns going, who hit a couple of Rubio assisted threes in the third and carried things over to the fourth when he scored 10 of his team high 25 (to go along with 10 boards). Zach LaVine also got going a bit in the second half after struggling in the first half. Once again he only played one stint, spanning the first and second quarters, as the point guard. Mitchell brought Andre Miller in and then played LaVine extensively with both Miller and Rubio through the rest of the game.
Unfortunately, it was a rough shooting night overall. LaVine scored 19, but it took him 20 shots to get there, and Andrew Wiggins manged 23 on 22 shots, The was in large part because the Knicks were effectively defending the rim primarily through Porzingis, who finished with seven blocks, at least a few of those on Wiggins as he attacked the basket.
More guys came alive in the second half behind Rubio's masterpiece but it was too little too late, being down 20 at halftime.
- Zach LaVine played only five minutes without either Rubio or Andre Miller out there, so hopefully the switch over to shooting guard is happening.
- That might at least been to do a little bit with Martin's absence making some time for Miller to play
- Gorgui Dieng had a solid outing-14 and 10 in 36 minutes on 6-9 shooting.
- Towns started the game 2-6, finished 11-21, made a couple of big threes and grabbed 10 boards. He was huge in the second half. Kristaps Porzingis shot poorly (4-14), and finished with 11 and 6, but also 7 blocked shots, 6 of which were in the first half when he put on a rim protecting display. He's very impressive.
- Shabazz Muhammad finished with 8 and 9 in 18 minutes, but was lucky not to get ejected in the 2nd quarter when he threw an obvious elbow against Sasha Vucevic. The refs decided it was a flagrant 1 only after viewing the replay, a decision that surprised me and I thought was frankly wrong.