NEW YORK — Zach LaVine concentrated on nothing but making his free throws. Let others worry about pingpong balls and mathematical odds.
LaVine made the tying and go-ahead free throws with 10.7 seconds left and scored six of his 20 points in overtime as the Minnesota Timberwolves outlasted the New York Knicks 95-92 on March 19 night in a match-up of the NBA’s biggest losers.
Minnesota (15-53) ended a six-game losing streak and snapped a tie with the Knicks (14-54) for the NBA’s worst record. New York can still win for losing, and now has pole position in the race for the No. 1 draft pick.
“We don’t look at it that way,” LaVine said. “We look at it as a game and we want to be better than that team, so don’t matter if it’s first or last place, we’re going to play the same way.”
Kevin Martin scored 22 points and Andrew Wiggins had 20 for Minnesota despite shooting 4 for 17 from the field. Gorgui Dieng finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds, and his blocked shot triggered the fast break that set up LaVine’s free throws.
Langston Galloway scored 21 points and Alexey Shved had 20 for the Knicks, who couldn’t make it two wins in a row in OT after surprising San Antonio on March 17.
The Wolves won for the second time in 12 games, despite having eight players on the injury list, leaving them so short-handed that they had to sign Sean Kilpatrick from Delaware of the NBA Development League just to field the mandated league minimum of eight active players.
New York led by one when Dieng blocked Shved’s shot. LaVine rushed up the court and was fouled, making two for a 93-92 lead. Shved missed again and LaVine added two more free throws with 1.6 seconds remaining before Andrea Bargnani missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“We didn’t make shots toward the end,” Galloway said. “I mean, they made a couple of baskets and we’re just learning still with overtime and down the stretch.”
Ricky Rubio (sore right ankle) rejoined an injured list that already included Kevin Garnett, Nikola Pekovic and many others.
The Wolves needed eight players in uniform so signed Kilpatrick to a 10-day contract, in part because he was close enough that he could get to Madison Square Garden in time. He arrived in the Minnesota locker room about 45 minutes before the start after driving from Delaware.
The Knicks, also short-handed, signed guard Ricky Ledo from the Texas Legends of the NBA D-League on March 19. Though not well played, it was a compelling finish to a game that both teams had incentive to lose.
The team with the worst record gets a 25 percent chance to win the No. 1 pick through the draft lottery, while the second-worst team’s odds are just below 20 percent.
But both coaches said their teams would play to win. The Timberwolves have a history of being unlucky in the lottery, so Minnesota’s Flip Saunders said no one would tank for draft positioning no matter how much they may want the pick.
“You can’t do that, because everything in this league is all based on, it’s the lottery. It’s called luck, so what you do is you go out to play and you try to do that for respect of the game,” said Saunders, also the team President.
(BRIAN MAHONEY, AP Basketball Writer)
Source: The National Herald