Wolves jump to a huge lead early but needed to stave off Knicks charge
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NEW YORK -- For the Minnesota Timberwolves, a 3-0 start is as much cause for caution as celebration.
The Wolves have had too much bad luck lately to think things will stay this smooth.
Kevin Love had 34 points, 15 rebounds and five assists, Kevin Martin scored 30 points and Minnesota improved to 3-0 for the first time in 12 years with a 109-100 victory over the New York Knicks on Sunday night.
The Timberwolves, averaging a whopping 37.3 points in the first quarter, are healthy again after an injury-wrecked 2012-13 and showing the early promise of a team that can contend for its first playoff berth since 2004.
But after being limited to 18 games last season, Love knows nothing is guaranteed.
"We don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves because of the injuries," he said. "So don't want to live in the past, don't want to live too far in the future, we just want to try to plan for Cleveland tomorrow."
Minnesota took a huge lead after a 40-point first quarter, then pulled away after the Knicks trimmed it to two in the closing minutes to move halfway to matching the 2001-02 team that set the franchise record by winning its first six.
Carmelo Anthony had 22 points and 17 rebounds for the Knicks, who have dropped two straight after a season-opening victory and drew some loud boos in the first half while appearing to be standing still on defense.
Anthony shot just 8 of 21. Metta World Peace added 17 points, but the Knicks were too far behind by the time they found any offense. Raymond Felton had 12 assists but shot 3 of 12, as did rookie Tim Hardaway Jr.
The Wolves were 29 of 38 from the free throw line after coming into the game leading the NBA with 27 makes per game, while New York was just 11 of 13. Many times the Knicks lost whatever momentum they had when they sent a Minnesota player to the line.
Minnesota rang up 38 points in the first quarter of its opener, put up 34 in a rout of Oklahoma City on Friday, and made 14 of 21 shots in the opening 12 minutes of this one.
"That was the difference in the game," Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. "I thought the second, third and fourth quarter we played pretty good basketball, but you just can't come out on your home court and dig a hole."
"This is such a fun team to play on," said Martin, who was 5 for 5 on 3-pointers. "Nobody is trying to lead the league in scoring here. Everybody has the big picture of getting to the playoffs."
Leading by four, the Wolves closed the period with a 23-6 run, and it really couldn't have been much easier. When they weren't getting ahead of the Knicks' defense for fast-break layups, they were getting to the line, such as when Love had a four-point possession after Kenyon Martin fouled him on a 3-pointer, then gave an extra shove for a technical foul.
Minnesota scored the final 11 points of the period to make it 40-19, got the first basket of the second, and took a 64-49 lead into halftime.
Playing again without the suspended J.R. Smith and with Amare Stoudemire resting, the Knicks finally sustained a run in the fourth quarter. Consecutive 3-pointers by Anthony and Iman Shumpert capped a 17-5 surge that cut it to 100-98 with 4:49 remaining, but Martin made a free throw on a technical foul, then hit a 3-pointer, and Love followed with a jumper to push the lead to 106-98 with 3:19 to play.
"We started playing with some energy. We started feeling desperate," Anthony said. "We dug ourselves a hole. We started fighting out that hole. We gave ourselves a chance to get back in the basketball game."© The Associated Press