W2W4: Knicks at Timberwolves

How many more times do you want to hear Mike Woodson take the blame for a loss, like he did Wednesday night in Washington, D.C.? The coach needs to make sure his guys are locked in from the opening tip to the bitter end.

A big plus for the Knicks heading into Friday night is that the Timberwolves have been on a major tailspin since their star, Olympian Kevin Love, went down on Jan. 3 with a re-fractured right hand. Since then, they've gone 3-14.

Here are three things to watch for tonight, starting at 8:

1. The night has Melo written all over it. Not only have the Timberwolves been struggling to make stops recently, but their defensive specialist Andrei Kirilenko is out tonight with a strained right quadriceps. That means that Carmelo Anthony will likely face inexperienced forwards Mickael Gelabale or Derrick Williams.

Like Woodson did on Monday against the Pistons with Kyle Singler in the picture, the coach could direct the ball through Anthony early and often. It worked against Detroit. Not only did Melo account for the Knicks' first four buckets, he scored or facilitated 13 of the team's first 15 points. And he finished the first half with a game-high 19 points.

2. Early halfcourt traps on Ricky Rubio? The European is one of the more clever point guards in the NBA, roaming around the court like Steve Nash, and his passing is precise. So could Woodson call for some extra pressure on Minnesota's up-and-coming floor general to rattle him a bit?

It's something we haven't seen from the Knicks at the start of games -- they've done it more in the second half -- as they usually run their regular pick-and-roll defense featuring Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler. But that hasn't really worked in first quarters, and it's given too much confidence to opposing point guards who are the heart and soul of every team in the league.

3. Additional playing time for the second unit? Perhaps some extra energy from the bench could help the Knicks maintain their momentum and finish strong tonight?

Down the road this season, it will be important for Anthony to play around 35 minutes per game and not push 40-plus until the playoffs. So Woodson should look to call on others to step up and fill some minutes here and there. The mostly veteran cast is capable. The key is having a key perimeter and interior defensive player on the court at all times.

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