MINNEAPOLIS -- The Knicks were not asking for the world, only something small. "We've got to get one win," Amar'e Stoudemire said before the game. "Once we get that first win, we can kind of move forward from there."
When you have lost seven in a row, and seemingly have lost your way, one win can feel like the whole world. No one pretended that their 118-106 victory against the Timberwolves (30-30) magically turned around their whole season. It was just comforting for the Knicks to know that when faced with a gut check, they showed that they had something worth checking.
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Instead of buckling or panicking in the face of an opponent's comeback -- the Wolves cut a 17-point deficit to two by the end of the third quarter -- the Knicks showed enough fortitude to start the fourth with a 15-2 run.
"We stayed composed. Normally in the past, that was the time that we were crumbling," Carmelo Anthony said. "Teams make a run and we don't know how to bounce back from that. Tonight, we kept our foot on the gas, they made a run, we sustained that and we kept playing our game."
That spurt, like the game as a whole, involved a lot of Anthony and a little of everything else. Anthony, who finished with 33 points, set the tone with a drive to start the final quarter. By the time he had made an inside basket and a two-point jumper, his team was up 103-88. Also in that pivotal stretch, Stoudemire (18 points) scored on a strong move to the hoop. Raymond Felton, in a stark reversal of his recent form, drove the length of the court for a layup, two of his 18 points.
Felton was probably the biggest symbol of what a completely different kind of game this was. He had been mired in a deep shooting slump and a welter of personal problems (marriage breakup, charge of having an unlicensed gun). He had a heart-to-heart talk with Mike Woodson Tuesday and played without looking as if he was carrying the world on his shoulders.
"That's the Raymond we were used to seeing from last season," Woodson said. "I thought tonight he played his best game of the year for us."
The point guard was grateful for his coach's support and with the way the game went. "This," he said, referring to the basketball court, "is where I can have fun and be free. I just did it. I have no explanation, no word, no phrase or anything for it. I just came out and cleared my head and played ball."
He was not the only Knick. Tyson Chandler had as many rebounds (14) as Timberwolves bigs Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic combined. Chandler also converted on several alley-oop passes, including one that capped the Knicks' 11-2 start.
Most important, his defense set the tone against Love, who has been averaging 34 points a game for a month. Wednesday night, he had 19 and only one in the second half.
Several Knicks spoke of building on this and making progress. The jury is out on that. It was only one win. But for the first time in a long time, the Knicks (22-40) passed a gut check and liked what they saw.
"We looked," Anthony said, "like a team out there tonight."