NEW YORK (AP) – The New York Knicks are a far different team than their last matchup with the Minnesota Timberwolves, when they allowed Kevin Love to enjoy one of the best games in NBA history.
The teams will meet again Monday night at Madison Square Garden, with the Knicks in search of a fifth straight win and a season split with Love and the Timberwolves.
New York (12-9) has won nine of 10 since a 3-8 start. The Knicks play seven of their next nine at home after playing a league-high 13 road games to this point.
One of those road games was a 112-103 loss to Minnesota (5-15) on Nov. 12 in which New York blew a 21-point lead in the third quarter. Love scored 31 points and grabbed a franchise-record 31 rebounds for the NBA’s first 30-30 game in 28 years.
“Kevin had an incredible game,” Minnesota coach Kurt Rambis said after the game. “Those numbers are just stupid. I don’t even know what to say.”
Love has continued to play well, matching the Lakers’ Pau Gasol for the league lead with 15 double-doubles. The third-year forward is averaging 23.7 points and 18.8 rebounds during a run of six straight double-doubles after he had 28 and 19 in a 129-95 rout of Cleveland on Saturday that ended a six-game losing streak.
“We just want to take the same effort that we had tonight into the New York game and through the rest of next week and kind of get things going our way,” Love said. “I think the best part about today is we were only focused on this game, not worrying about the losing streak or really anything else.”
Frontcourt mate Michael Beasley missed the victory with a sprained ankle. His absence would be a boost for the Knicks since Beasley had 35 points in last month’s meeting.
While Love has been outstanding, the same can be said of New York’s Amare Stoudemire. Stoudemire is averaging 34.3 points over the last four games, and had 31 and a season-high 16 rebounds in Sunday’s 116-99 win at Toronto.
“He’s got broad shoulders and we jump on them a lot of times,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. “He plays at ease. It’s very comforting to know that you can just throw it over to him and he’s going to get a wide-open jump shot or he’s dunking or he’s going to get a foul on him. He’s not forcing things, he’s just been playing terrific.”
Stoudemire should find some resistance against Darko Milicic, who will return to MSG for the first time since an eight-game stint with the Knicks last season. Milicic leads the NBA with 55 blocks, and helped limit Stoudemire to a season low-tying 14 points last month.
That was before Stoudemire started developing better chemistry with fellow newcomer Raymond Felton, who is averaging 21.2 points and 9.6 assists over his last nine games.
“We’re starting to buy into the system offensively and we’ve got better spacing,” Stoudemire said. “The chemistry is phenomenal between myself and Raymond. Defensively we’re doing a much better job of containing guys and sticking to our principles. We’ve gotten smarter.”
© 2010 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.