Knicks have to pick it up defensively

The Minnesota Timberwolves' Nikola Pekovic drives on the

The Minnesota Timberwolves' Nikola Pekovic drives on the New York Knicks' Carmelo Anthony, right, in the first quarter at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on Friday, February 8, 2013. (Bruce Bisping/Minneapolis Star Tribune/MCT) (Credit: MCT Bruce Bisping)

Before Carmelo Anthony lifted the Knicks to their victory in Minnesota Friday night, he got an earful from Mike Woodson after a couple of defensive breakdowns in the third quarter.

Woodson holds everyone accountable on the Knicks, from the biggest star to the 15th man, which is one of the reasons he reached 50 wins faster than any other coach in franchise history. But it's clear the Knicks' hiccups on defense are getting to him.

He often gives his players glares of disgust or utter disbelief when they make a defensive mistake, but he gave Anthony more than that during a third-quarter timeout.

"He wasn't switching the pick-and-rolls," Woodson said. "Twice his guy came up and set the screen and knocked our guard off and he was really the last line of defense, and he was staying with his guy and the guard was walking into the lane making plays."

Anthony respects Woodson and plays hard for him. After the game, the two were laughing together and with fans whom Woodson brought in the locker room to meet and take pictures with Anthony.

But during the game, Anthony wasn't the only one to hear it from Woodson. He got on all his players. Asked what Woodson said, J.R. Smith said, "I really can't repeat those things."

The Knicks made the necessary plays at the end to beat the Timberwolves, but they continue to let guards get past them on the perimeter and make plays.

John Wall did it in Washington's win Wednesday, and Ricky Rubio and Luke Ridnour did it Friday for 3½ quarters. But the Knicks got stops late, particularly on the last two plays, to secure the win.

On Sunday, the Knicks face arguably the NBA's best point guard in Chris Paul, and the Clippers (35-17) have a far better cast than the Wizards or Timberwolves. If the Knicks continue to have defensive breakdowns, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan could turn the Garden into Lob City East.

"I think when we need to defend, it comes to us," Smith said. "It would be nice for us to start out defending and try to work off of that. For some reason, we start off relaxing early and try and see how good our offense starts off and then try and play defense in the second half. We can't have that mind-set.

"Some games we do it and some games we don't. It gets kind of tedious and frustrating when you expect it every night. As long as it eventually comes and we get the W, I guess that's all that matters."

The Knicks survived that twice against the Wolves, who were without Kevin Love in both games. The Knicks fell behind by 11 both times but held the Timberwolves to 36 points in the second half in New York in December and limited them to seven points in the last 7:15 on Friday night.

Minnesota missed some open shots, but the Knicks' defense legitimately stopped Ridnour and Rubio on the last two plays, coming up with a strip and a blocked shot.

"We made our adjustments late in the game,'' Anthony said. "It was just good we made our adjustments."

The Knicks know they have to be ready to play from the beginning against the Clippers, though. If they wait until the second half to make adjustments or play defense, it may be too late.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

NBA video

advertisement | advertise on newsday