The Minnesota Timberwolves close out their season-long six-game homestand on Friday night when they'll face the Knicks of New York. The Wolves have gone 1-4 in this homestand, thus far and it may not get any easier matched up against the Eastern Conference's second-best team.
The Knicks come into tonight's game 31-16, 12-10 on the road, 7-3 in their last 10 games and currently ranked just behind Miami for that #1 spot in the East. The Knicks were riding a five-game winning streak coming into their game on Wednesday, but they dropped that one to the Washington Wizards in a 106-96 final.
The Wolves head into tonight's contest at 18-28, 12-11 at home, losers of two-straight, 2-8 in their last 10 games and currently ranked 12th in the Western Conference, 7.5 games out of the 8th and final seed in the West. The Wolves have now dropped 10 games below .500 on the year and are 2-13 in their last 15 games.
The one bright spot in Minnesota's recent struggles has been the steady improvement of point guard Ricky Rubio. Rubio has scored 9 or more points in his last six outings (14, 9, 9, 9, 15 & 9). He also has 6+ assists in 11 of his last 12 games and averaging 10.2apg over the last six games. Rubio has tallied 25 assists over the last two games (14 & 11), which ties a career record for a two-game span.
The Knicks will be looking for their 4th straight win over the Wolves as they've also beaten them in 15 of their last 16 games. These two teams already met once this season (12/23), which resulted in a 94-91 Knicks win. Carmelo Anthony scored 33 points in that one and tallied 19 of those in the fourth quarter alone.
The last time these two teams met, Andrei Kirilenko was tasked with guarding Carmelo Anthony (and did a VERY good job...through the first three quarters). Unfortunately AK has all but been ruled out for the game. He didn't play on Wednesday vs. the Spurs, didn't practice Thursday and is listed as doubtful for this one. Beyond AK; Kevin Love (hand), Chase Budinger (knee), Brandon Roy (knees) and Malcolm Lee (knee/hip) are all out, too.
The Knicks are without two of their frontcourt reserves. Both Rasheed Wallace & Marcus Camby are dealing with foot problems that are keeping them off the active roster. It remains unlikely either of them will return before the All-Star break.
Amar'e Stoudemire was out for that 12/23 matchup, but has since returned to the active roster. He's currently in a reserve role and over the past seven games, he's been playing very well. Over that span, Amar'e has averages of 18.4ppg on 67.6% FG. This will be Stoudemire's first matchup against Minnesota since Dec. 6, 2010.
Let's take a look at tonight's probable starting lineups...
I'm writing this article early Friday morning and as of right now there hasn't been any word on if the Wolves resigned both Gelabale & Johnson. We'll have an update on that when the info is available, but I assume they'll both be back and dressed for this one. Gelabale is the team's starting small forward (without AK).
The big concern in this one will be containing Carmelo Anthony. Without AK, I'm not sure who Adelman will start on him. He could go with Gelabale, but Melo holds a pretty big advantage (size & weight) and could post him up easily. They could go with Derrick Williams, while DWill's post defense is slightly above average, but Anthony would have 0 trouble going past him on the perimeter for easy layups. I wouldn't be surprised to see Dante in extended minutes against him, but I honestly have no idea. Don't be surprised to see some zone D from the Wolves tonight either.
Nikola Pekovic will be a big key (as always). In his last two games vs. the Knicks and Tyson Chandler, Pek has totaled 42 points and 30 rebounds. We need more the same from him tonight against the reigning Defensive Player of the Year winner.
If the Wolves want a win tonight it'll come down to a few very big keys...
That's all for now, tipoff for tonight's game is at 7pmCT, enjoy the game, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!