In one half of basketball, both teams showed why they will likely be home when the playoffs start later this month.
Randy Foye made big 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and scored 19 points, and Minnesota blew an 18-point lead before beating New York 99-94 Friday night.
Kevin Garnett had 12 points and 15 rebounds, and Ricky Davis scored 17 points for the Wolves, who are all but out of the race for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference after going 7-16 since the All-Star break. That includes a March 27 loss to Seattle where Minnesota blew a 25-point lead, the biggest blown lead in franchise history.
"I mean it's the microcosm of our season," coach Randy Wittman said. "I thought the first half was as good a half offensively that we've played all year, bar none, not even close. And then we come out 18 up and we reverted, one pass, shot, which has been our thing. All of a sudden 18 is down."
The injury-riddled Knicks lost Stephon Marbury in the first half, then dropped their fourth straight game and 10th in their past 12. They are barely hanging on in the race for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, falling three games behind Orlando with seven games to play.
Nate Robinson scored all of his 21 points in the second half to lead the Knicks back without Marbury. But New York's zone lost sight of Foye a few times in key spots and failed to box out the shooter on a crucial free throw in the final minute, wasting their spirited comeback attempt. Eddy Curry added 20 points and Mardy Collins had 16.
"All season long, we fight and we battle, but little things we need to do to complete a play, we don't do the little things," Knicks coach Isiah Thomas said. "In a close game it's the little things that hurt you, it's the little things that kill you. It's not the big monumental things."
Marbury left just a little more than a minute into the second quarter with what the Knicks called right turf toe, though he returned in the final minute of the game. He had been the Knicks' best offensive player in recent weeks while they were playing without guards Jamal Crawford and Steve Francis because of ankle injuries and forward Quentin Richardson after back surgery.
Top reserve David Lee returned after missing six straight games with a sore right leg. He had played in just three of 21 games since the All-Star break.
Marbury will wait until Saturday to see if he is able to play at Milwaukee. Lee said he will be available.
"I'm playing the rest of the year. As long as I can walk, I'll be out there trying to play," he said. "I'm not anticipating feeling great tomorrow but I think right now, especially depending how Steph feels tomorrow, we need guys. It's more than about me right now."
The Knicks tied it at 74 after the second of Collins' consecutive layups to open the fourth quarter. Foye made a 3-pointer 20 seconds later to give Minnesota the lead for good, and after a free throw by Collins, the rookie from Villanova made another 3 to give the Wolves an 80-75 lead with 9:02 remaining.
New York got back within three after Robinson's 3-pointer with 6:51 to play, but Foye answered from the behind the arc, and the Knicks trailed by at least six until the final minute.
The Knicks pulled to 96-94 with 17 seconds left after Renaldo Balkman's follow. They fouled Foye four seconds later, and he made the first free throw before missing the second. But he jumped in to bat the ball forward to teammate Craig Smith, and the Wolves ran nearly 10 seconds off the clock before New York could foul again.
The Knicks missed 12 of their first 15 shots and trailed by 15 points before ending the first quarter down 28-17. Even the appearance of Lee, who was greeted with a loud cheer when he entered the game with New York down 18-6, couldn't do much to help.
Things got worse when Marbury left. The Wolves extended the lead to 18 with 3:23 left in the period, and they were ahead 59-41 at halftime.
"I have not figured it out, why we can't duplicate halves, especially when we have halves like we did tonight," Garnett said. "A half where we just basically got anything we wanted because we moved the ball and shared the ball. We came out and totally played two halves."
Robinson, scoreless at halftime, had 15 points in the third quarter, helping the Knicks outscore the Wolves 29-15 and cut the lead to 74-70 going to the fourth.
Richardson was back at Madison Square Garden for the first time since having back surgery on March 30. Richardson said he was surprised he needed the procedure to remove fragments of a herniated disk, thinking at the time he was just going to Miami for another opinion from a specialist. Before that, he was still hoping to return this season. "I was thinking that it would go away after a little while and I would get better," he said. "When I started having some pain go down my leg, that's when Doc said no, we have to go get it looked at. And then that's when we saw that the herniation had gotten worse." ... Minnesota has won 10 of the past 12 meetings.