The Knicks are in town tonight for a 7 PM CST tilt against the Wolves. By way of preview, a few things:
- The psychology of streaking: It’s time to talk about streaking, and the weird effects it can have on people. No, not that kind of streaking. I’m talking about the kind where someone does something many times consecutively. In this case, the Knicks have won 15 of the last 16 against the Wolves. They’ve basically been streaking against the Wolves. I hate streaks like that, because they play into teams’ psychology, even if the players won’t admit it. But most honest people who’ve played competitively at any level will agree that when you lose to a team over and over again , players on the winning team gain confidence and you lose it. Players on the other team believe they can execute, and play relaxed and under control; meanwhile, you lose confidence and either tighten up and fail to make plays, or go way too far in the other direction, overcompensating and becoming risk-acceptant and forcing things at the wrong times and places. That’s how it is against the Lakers, and it sort of feels like we’re in the same place with NYK. Breaking that cycle tonight might be a small silver lining a few months from now when we look back at what has been a heartbreaking season in so many ways.
- Containing Melo: Melo beasted his way to 33 points last time the Wolves and Knicks played, leaving Wolves defenders in his wake during Winning Time en route to a 94-91 Knicks victory in a game that was eminently winnable for the Wolves. Melo’s a handful for anyone. Andrei Kirilenko, who missed Wednesday’s game against San Antonio and is still banged up,
will bewould have been responsible for chasing Melo around tonight. Kirilenko fouled out after playing only 20 minutes in the December 23rd game, and the Wolves don’t have anyone else who can guard Melo: Dante can’t move his feet fast enough on perimeter; Gelabale isn’t strong enough; Derrick is too, well, Derrick. Here’s hoping AK’s back is feeling betterheals soon, and that he’s able to keep himself on the floor tonightget back on the floor soon. (Eds. Note: It was definitively announced that Kirilenko will not be playing tonight while the above was being written. Get well soon, ‘Drei!)
- Backcourt pleasures?: The Wolves’ backcourt has struggled mightily, as Britt Robson points out. Rubio can’t shoot, JJ and Luke are too small, Alexey is inkahnsistent, Brandon Roy isn’t limping through that door. You know the bit. But the Wolves guards might get a break of sorts tonight, as the Knicks have been getting taken apart recently by opposing guards, most recently by John Wall on Wednesday night in a lopsided loss to the Wiz. Ray Felton’s generally considered a mediocre-at-best defender, Jason Kidd used to be a good one but has been mediocre-at-best since he began using his walker during games, and Iman Shumpert is considered a very good one, though I think he was overrated in this regard during the pre-Linsanity honeymoon period he had as a rookie last season. The question is, can the Wolves’ guards exploit these weaknesses and hit some jumpers. Luke can. Whether anyone else can, on any given night, seems like a coin flip at this point.
- CHRIS COPELAND!
- A SITREP on the Other Guys: Contain your excitement, Gelabale and Chris Johnson are Wolves for the rest of 2012-13. Woo-hoo! I’m being a bit facetious: both players have made nice contributions at a time when the Wolves badly needed it, and I’m glad that both get to stick in the L at least a bit longer – especially Johnson, who was decidedly NOT getting paid in the D-League. But it says something about how the season has gone when two 10-dayers have become such a source of optimism among Wolves followers, particularly when you think back to how things looked early in the season.
- Budinger’s (Almost) Back: Hey Wolves fans, March is coming soon. You know what that means: Bud’s (due) back! Okay, okay, I know – he looked really good before his injury, and the Wolves shooting woes have been terribly exposed in his absence. But Budinger’s rep as a sharpshooter and Wolves savior has grown to near-mythical proportions since he got hurt. All I’m saying is that we need to see more of the guy before arguing with each other whether he *really* deserves to be the fifth head on Mt. Rushmore, or whether he *just* deserves a giant statue next to the Paul Bunyan statue. (RUMINT is, Pek’s agent is going to demand that a Pek statue be erected next to the Bunyan one, so you can understand why the Wolves brass would be conflicted over Budinger.) Even though Budinger will be returning after the Wolves are eliminated from playoff contention, it will still be good to get a look at him this season to increase our sample size and see how he looks, and how he and Rubio look together.
That’s all for now. Enjoy the game. Here’s to ending the Knicks’ streaking.