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Knicks, Timberwolves try to get back on track

The Minnesota Timberwolves need to find a way to right the ship after once again failing to close out a game, the latest instance coming Monday against the Utah Jazz.

They'll have two straight chances against the New York Knicks to do so. Minnesota hosts New York on Wednesday at Target Center before traveling to Madison Square Garden for another game against the Knicks on Friday.

Coach Tom Thibodeau was not pleased after his team's latest performance, a 113-103 loss to the Jazz in which Minnesota took a lead in the fourth before letting the game get away.

In several instances this season, the third quarter has been Minnesota's Achilles heel. In the loss to Utah, the fourth quarter was the undoing for the Timberwolves (5-12).

"We came back in the second half, had the lead in the fourth quarter. Then we didn't do the things that are necessary to win," Thibodeau told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "So it's getting a pick-and-roll, walking out a man. It's passing up a good shot to get a great shot, sprinting back every time."

The Knicks (8-9) are on a two-game skid of their own after winning five of six.

The latest loss was a 112-103 defeat at the hands of Oklahoma City on Monday in New York. Derrick Rose's 30-point effort wasn't enough as New York was on the wrong end of Russell Westbrook's triple-double.

"That 30 don't mean anything when we lose," Rose told the New York Times. "And the way that we lost, there wasn't any grit. There wasn't any grind. Can't come out and play like that, period."

Rose and teammate Joakim Noah will see a familiar face on the Minnesota sideline Wednesday night as their previous coach in Chicago is now in his first year as the bench boss of the Timberwolves.

"We've been through a lot together," Thibodeau told the Star Tribune. "I'm glad to see them doing well. ... I think New York is an ideal situation. I'm happy for them. I won't be happy for them (Wednesday). But they're good guys."

Noah and Co. will need to do a better job on the glass Wednesday than the Knicks did on Monday. New York was outrebounded 53-40 by the Thunder. Noah had just three boards.

Through 17 games this year, the Knicks have been one of the 10 best rebounding teams in the NBA. They now go up against a Timberwolves team that has been one of the worst.

"I want to play better, obviously," Noah told the New York Post. "I know personally I have to play better for this team to get to where we want to get to."

Minnesota's young core of players is finding out the hard way what it takes to win -- or, in their case, lose -- close games. Four of the Wolves' last five losses have been by four points or less, adding to the growing pains of youngsters Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine.

"Everyone's frustrated," Wiggins told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "It's not fun to lose."
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