Despite their appalling form of late, the New York Knicks might still be considered in the Eastern conference playoff race thanks to some interesting changes by Mike Woodson, returning Amare Stoudemire to play next to Carmelo Anthony in the lineup, leading to a 118-106 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
After seven consecutive losses, it’s hard to deny that for once, the Knicks looked good. Not just on offense, as they shot 52.7% from the field and 40.7% from beyond the arc, but on defense, holding Kevin Love to just one point and obviously no field goals during the second half.
Carmelo Anthony finished with 33 points, but he had plenty of help coming his way as the entire lineup scored in double figures. Amare Stoudemire, playing 31 minutes, finished with 18 points and Raymond Felton finally got out of his slump with 18 as well. Tyson Chandler had a big 15-14 double double and J.R. Smith scored 14 points, as Woodson decided he’ll simply put the best offensive players he has in the lineup instead of trying to mix up the rotations.
Take 1, it worked. It also helped that Kevin Love was absolutely atrocious defensively. Tyson Chandler was asked between quarters what was the Knicks’ plan for Kevin Love. Handling his ability to stretch the floor was one thing, but taking advantage of his non-existent defense seemed to be the most important one. The Timberwolves constantly had to help Love in the paint, and the limited minutes Nikola Pekovic had to play didn’t help. The Knicks defense is consistently bad, but the Timberwolves find themselves outside the playoff picture because of the same issue.
Maybe the two most interesting players to watch in this win for the Knicks were Felton and Stoudemire. Felton had a long talk with Mike Woodson, as the head coach was trying to understand whether or not the player actually has it in him to contribute with all of the legal problems distracting him. Felton didn’t put a hall of fame performance, but he’s much better than the last few games have shown.
Stoudemire might be a more intriguing case. He has said more than once that he doesn’t think there should be any restrictions on his minutes, and it’s only Mike Woodson deciding not to play him as much as he might deserve. Sure, he’s a defensive liability at times, but it comes down to two things: Stoudemire doesn’t have too much basketball left, and it’s better to get whatever is left for him before his massive deal expires. And Woodson isn’t going to get defense from this team, no matter what lineup he uses, so why not just make the most of your offensive weapons?
The Knicks can still make the playoffs. The Hawks with all their injuries are slipping away, the Bobcats can begin a losing streak, while there’s nothing about the Pistons or the Cavs that tells us they’re going to be good consistently from now until the end of the season.
The Timberwolves have a far smaller chance of actually making the playoffs. They might be a better team than the Knicks on most days, but they’re in the wrong conference. The Knicks still have players who are good enough to start something of a winning streak, especially with less and less cross-conference games left to play. From this terrible season, something good might still happen in the end, which might even mean Carmelo Anthony eventually chooses to stay.