Down 11 in the fourth quarter against a team he feels the New York Knicks should beat, Carmelo Anthony didn't see another disappointing loss coming. He saw an opportunity, and that's exactly what he told Raymond Felton.
"I told Raymond, 'I'm going to try to go get it,'" Anthony said.
Once he made up his mind, the Minnesota Timberwolves were powerless to stop him.
Anthony had 36 points and nine rebounds, scoring 12 points down the stretch to rally the Knicks to a 100-94 victory on Friday night.
Anthony topped 30 points for the 17th time this season for the Knicks, who trailed 87-76 with seven minutes to play. But Anthony did all of his fourth-quarter damage in those final minutes, hitting a 19-footer with 1:10 to play that put New York up for good.
"This was one of the games we had to win," Anthony said. "We had to go get it. Our backs were kind of against the wall, being down 11. It was one of those games we didn't want to look back on saying we should have won this game, kind of like the Wizards game."
Derrick Williams scored 19 points and Ricky Rubio had 18 points and 11 assists for the Timberwolves, who lost for the 14th time in 16 games. Nikola Pekovic added 16 points and 11 rebounds, but Minnesota had no answer for Anthony down the stretch.
"He's a superstar," Rubio said. "He's a scorer. He makes everything look easy."
The Knicks will have to savor this victory in Minnesota a little longer than they initially expected.
J.R. Smith scored 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds for the Knicks, who found out earlier in the day that they would be staying in Minnesota at least one extra day thanks to a massive snow storm that was blanketing the East Coast. They planned to get up on Saturday morning and do some scouting on their next opponent, the Los Angeles Clippers, who are scheduled to play at Madison Square Garden on Sunday. The Knicks hoped to leave at some point on Saturday once the weather cleared.
Luke Ridnour scored 20 points for the Minnesota, which had a chance to take the lead in the final 30 seconds when it trailed 95-94. But Ridnour didn't get the call he wanted on a drive to the basket, and Smith converted a three-point play on the other end to hold off the feisty Wolves, who again were playing without Kevin Love (broken hand), Chase Budinger (knee) and Andrei Kirilenko (quad).
"If we keep playing like that we are going to win games," coach Rick Adelman said.
The team with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference had a sense of urgency after a loss to the improving Washington Wizards earlier in the week. With three games to go before the All-Star break, coach Mike Woodson said, "We have to win all three."
This one was in doubt for quite a while.
The Knicks came into the game second in the league in 3-point shooting, giving them a huge advantage against the Timberwolves, who are dead last. The Wolves missed their first six 3s and were just 1 for 13 for the game. But the Knicks weren't able to parlay that dreadful performance into any substantial edge, going 8 for 26 themselves.
Anthony, who leads the NBA in first-quarter scoring, came out hard with 11 points in the opening period. Williams wasn't strong enough to handle the league's second-leading scorer and Dante Cunningham couldn't hang with him on the perimeter, presenting a matchup problem that certainly isn't unique to the Timberwolves.
Williams gave it his all though, making Anthony work for his shots. Anthony missed 11 of his first 20 shots from the field and was 2 for 9 on 3-pointers.
"He's one of the best scorers in the NBA, if not the best," Williams said. "You've just got to try and battle him the whole time and I tried my best."
His confidence growing as the fourth quarter progressed, Williams had a steal and a dunk, threw down an alley-oop on a rainmaker of a pass from Rubio and scored underneath for an 83-74 lead with 8:30 to play.
But Anthony kept coming.
Left on an island to deal with him, Anthony backed Williams down in the post relentlessly over the final seven minutes. He scored on an up-and-under, a pull-up jumper and got to the foul line to get the Knicks back in the game. His two free throws cut the deficit to 90-89 with 3:24 to go and also gave Williams his fifth foul. His runner over Cunningham iced the game in the final 20 seconds.
"He just wouldn't let us lose. He made offensive play after offensive play," Woodson said.
NOTES: Adelman picked up a rare technical foul and Cunningham did as well for arguing foul calls with the officials. ... Amare Stoudemire picked one up in the fourth quarter for gesturing toward the officials. ... Wolves G JJ Barea left the game in the second quarter with a left leg injury but was able to return in the second half.