This was a really important win for the Knicks. They had gone 7-6 since a blazing start to the season, so they desperately needed a signature victory against a very good team. The way they won this game is also significant, as their much-maligned defense held the excellent Spurs' offense to just 83 points in 89 possessions in the game.
But is that effort sustainable? As much as the Knicks seemed more committed in their defensive rotations, I would caution reading too much into the performance. San Antonio was playing its fourth game in five nights, and their previous game was in Milwaukee on Wednesday. Traveling from Milwaukee to New York is hard enough when it's just a back-to-back set; traveling from Milwaukee to New York at the end of a four-game-in-five-day stretch is even tougher.
The Spurs, simply, looked tired. They missed open three-pointers, sure, but they also just didn't cut and pass with as much of a purpose as usual. San Antonio relies on a lot of baseline movement to initiate their offense and get the timing down pat to facilitate their ball movement, but those cuts were not being run as quickly as usual. That threw off the Spurs' sets and eventually forced them to run mostly high pick and rolls that weren't too difficult to stop.
All this is to say: let's see how the Knicks fare against a rested team before suggesting their defensive issues are fixed.
It's really hard to make sense of this game, but the Timberwolves will absolutely take it. Denver is probably the league's toughest road back-to-back venue when you consider the high altitude and the Nuggets' own desire to get up and down the floor. Given how the Timberwolves rolled over against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday, you could see them doing the same in this one. Instead, J.J. Barea and Alexey Shved saved the day in the fourth quarter and led Minnesota to a huge win.
Kevin Love hurt his hand in the middle of the game, and the Timberwolves once again played well in his absence. Before you freak out, though: it's not really a stretch to say that the Timberwolves are better when the 35-percent shooting version of Love that we've seen this season isn't in. It's the full-strength version of Love that obviously is the difference, and we haven't seen that one all year because his conditioning has been thrown off from the injury. We have to be reasonable and give Love a chance to regain his conditioning before we criticize him too heavily.