The first quarter of Saturday night's game against the Knicks provided some of the most entertaining basketball I've seen the Wolves play all season. It was an offensive showcase, as the Pups dropped 42 on the Knicks in the opening period (by the way, our squad would win the game, 114-93).
Our guys shot a ridiculous percentage from the field in that quarter, so give them credit for bursting out of the gate. But let's also acknowledge that the Knicks are a BRUTAL defensive team.
Watching New York tonight, two things became clear: Team chemistry is nonexistent for the Knicks, and they are one of the laziest defensive teams I've seen in quite a while. Their communication on the defensive end on Saturday was horrendous, frequently allowing the Wolves to score easy baskets on back cuts and uncontested jumpers. The Knicks' transition defense is also utterly nonexistent, as Randy Foye and Kirk Snyder had considerable success on the fast break.
On that note, let's talk a little bit about Kirk, who's certainly been a pleasant surprise since arriving in Minnesota. I was extremely impressed with his performance against the Knicks; when Kirk rebounded a ball, he immediately looked to push the tempo and catch the Knicks napping on the defensive end.
In only 23 minutes, Kirk posted 15 points and went 7-7 from the free throw line. He was an instrumental component of the Wolves' convincing victory, and deserves tremendous praise for playing a high-energy game and drawing plenty of fouls.
Randy Foye also played an excellent ballgame, finishing with nine points and nine assists. Like Snyder, he created numerous opportunities for the Wolves in transition - he did finish the game with three turnovers, but that proved irrelevant in this blowout.
While I was quite impressed with the performances of those two guys, they weren't the best players on the floor for the Wolves on Saturday. Those honors belong to Rashad McCants and Ryan Gomes.
This was one of those games where I'd watch Rashad and ask myself, ‘Why can't he play like this every night?' He was absolutely superhuman in the first quarter, shooting almost flawlessly from the field. Granted, the Knicks frequently left him uncovered, but give Rashad credit for being instrumental to the Wolves' offensive explosion tonight. He finished the game with 24 points, shooting 10-21 from the floor.
However, the player who receives the most props for the Wolves' dominant win is College Wolf's man crush, Ryan Gomes. Bravo to Gomsey for shooting the mid-range jumper to near-perfection...he shot 12-16 from inside the arc on Saturday, finishing with 26 points and an eyebrow-raising +/- rating of +27 for the evening.
I'll admit it - when I heard College Wolf touting Gomes after the Wolves acquired him from Boston, I wasn't sure what all the fuss was about. I became especially skeptical after Ryan started the season in ugly fashion - he only averaged 9.7 PPG in November, and 10.2 PPG in December. But since the beginning of the new year, Gomes has been simply terrific...and he's having himself an excellent March, thus far.
You've gotta love someone like Gomes who hits the mid-range jumper on a consistent basis, and always delivers a solid effort. The three-point shot still leaves a lot to be desired, but I don't even see why he'd need to step behind the arc when his mid-range game is so strong.
Chris Richard's been getting significant minutes on a more consistent basis lately, and that trend continued Saturday when Witt gave the big fella 16 minutes of playing time. Two thoughts: First, I wouldn't want to get into a fight with this dude (Chris is a TOUGH guy), and secondly, he's looked damn impressive on the boards against the Knicks.
Al's performance? Well, it was quite undistinguished - in 28 minutes, Al posted eight points, nine rebounds, and six assists. There's honestly not much more I can say about his impact (or lack thereof) against the Knicks...I hardly noticed him while watching the game, but thankfully, he picked an excellent night to have a bad game. There were plenty of other guys who made up for Al's off night - and then some.
The Wolves did indeed defeat a terrible Knicks team tonight, and that's certainly not anything to write home about - but nevertheless, Saturday's game put a smile on my face. Not only did the Wolves beat a team they should have beaten, but they prevented the Knicks from launching a serious comeback in the second half.
Our squad went into the fourth quarter with a 17-point lead, and instead of letting New York back into the game, they controlled the final period and prevented the Knicks from making a last gasp attempt at stealing a win. Also, the Knicks were never able to slice their deficit to single digits in the second half - they showed brief signs of life in the third quarter, but the Wolves maintained control of the game for 90% of the second half.
And that's something to feel good about. In December, the Wolves would have lost their lead in the second half, and may have ultimately lost the game. Not tonight, though...the Knicks were thoroughly dominated, and the Wolves ended the night with a solid win.no comments