Now that the New York Knicks gift shop has put all the “Linsanity” merchandise on the clearance table, it may be time for them to start stocking up on “Wood-Sanity” gear, as the Knicks have gotten off to a 4-0 start under interim coach Mike Woodson as they topped the Toronto Raptors at Madison Square Garden Tuesday night 106-87. New York has not only won the first four contests under their new bench boss, they have had lopsided victories winning by at least 14 points in all of the games.
The Knicks have also scored over 100 points in each contest; an impressive accomplishment for a team that has averaged 97.9 points per game for the season. They are back in the eighth playoff slot in the Eastern Conference Playoff chase, leading the Milwaukee Bucks by one game while trailing the Boston Celtics for the seventh slot by two and a half games.
The team went from being in the midst of a six game slide under former head coach Mike D’Antoni, when he resigned his position with the club last week; to looking nearly unbeatable in their first four games with Woodson at the helm. Was it just a matter of having a new voice in the locker room that has caused the sudden turnaround? Was the atmosphere in the Knicks clubhouse that toxic, that by simply removing D’Antoni from the mix immediately improved the team?
That was definitely part of the equation as D’Antoni and forward Carmelo Anthony certainly did not belong to a mutual admiration society and that tension hung like a cloud over the team. Hence we saw the improved play of the club when Carmelo was sidelined with an injury and the offense ran through Jeremy Lin. The chemistry that had formed on the team would soon dissipate when Anthony came back into the lineup; as the All-Star dug in his heels and demanded to be the focal point of the offense. With neither side willing to give, the union had to be dissolved for the good of the club.
New York has used a far more balanced offense under Woodson, allowing whom ever has the hot hand to keep control of the rock. Tuesday night Amar’e Stoudemire paced the team as he racked up a double-double including 22 points while Lin also notched a double-double with 19 points and 10 assists for the night.
More importantly, the Knicks have picked up their defensive intensity over the last four games; as their game differential has increased to 2.2 points per game. That’s simply Basketball 101; good defensive stops lead to good offensive opportunities and the team is using that principle to their advantage. Woodson has been around long enough in the Association that he realizes winning stems from defense. The Knicks are finally starting to grasp that concept.
Woodson did a great job with the Atlanta Hawks as head coach, helping transform them from being one of the doormats of the Association, to a team that has been in the Post Season every year since 2008. The jury is still out if he is the right man to help the Knicks get to the next level; but he could not have asked for a better start.