Linsanity may have simmered down a bit. But the Knicks are just starting to sizzle again.
And hopefully, for the remainder of the season.
The New York Knicks have just earned their fourth straight win under interim coach Mike Woodson, beating the Toronto Raptors, 106-87 at the Madison Square Garden Wednesday night. Amar’e Stoudemire led the Knicks with 22 points and 12 boards, while Jeremy Lin also had double-double figure with 18 points and 10 assists. Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler each chipped in 17 points for the Knicks, who are perfect in four games since Woodson took over as interim tactician.
So what happened to the Knicks since four games ago?
I did a researching on my own and I found out the following statistics:
– The Knicks have improved defensively, as far as allowing their opponents to score points is concerned. They have beaten their opponents by an average of 22.5 points, and have only allowed one team to score 100 in the last four games (against Indiana, 115-100). Amar’e Stoudemire has improved in getting rebounds, and Tyson Chandler has resumed his duties of shutting down opponents under the basket. They have also picked their opponents’ pockets 11 times a game in four games;
– Another defensive improvement they’ve made is in their rebounding. They have been averaging 44 rebounds per game in the last four games, an improvement of at least 5 boards on average compared to the 39 rebounds they averaged in the six losses they incurred prior to this four-game win streak. The only time they outrebounded a team that won over them was on their road game against Dallas, 51-46 (that’s because Dirk Nowitzki exploded from out of nowhere to carry Dallas behind his back for the win);
– The Knicks have been sharing the ball now (finally!). They have been averaging 24 assists per game, which might seem a normal stat. But a close look at the stats would reveal that that figure is shared by everybody, meaning on any given night, each Knick player that have stepped on the court to play has assisted the ball at least once in the minutes he logged in. There were only two nights where at most four players had no assists;
– Notice that in the last four games, Carmelo Anthony has not been the highest scoring player among the starters. If that means anything, well, the ball-hogging has finally stopped. Anthony has also upped his assist stats, meaning he has now allowed himself to be a channel rather than a container for the offense. What used to be a predictable offensive system has now been efficiently revamped into a deadlier one by improving ‘Melo’s part in the team’s ball rotation system;
– Lin has been turning the ball over lesser than average. He started out with six infractions in their game against Portland. Now, he’s only averaging 3 per game. There was a game he only had two. Either he’s improved ball handling, or that other point guards have been having better touches on the ball (Davis, Fields, Shumpert, et al), has been working just fine for them;
– To prove that Woodson’s system of isolation play was not really hinged on ‘Melo, he has reduced Anthony’s playing minutes by an average of 5 minutes per game. Since then, ‘Melo has had a fresher body when he steps on the court, making him still offensively potent, but defensively significant as well. Anthony may not be the center of the limelight anymore in the last four games, but believe it or not, that has been doing wonders for them. Still, ‘Melo can be explosive at times, especially when he’s at the receiving end of Jeremy Lin’s assists;
All these would be put to the test again, when the Knicks visit Philadelphia tomorrow night. This will be second road game for New York in five nights, and the second against a higher-echelon team.
And hopefully, the rise will continue on.
I already wrote the title of this post with 2:10 still left in the game between the New York Knicks and the Portland Trail Blazers. That’s how excited I was that New York was finally getting a win.
And finally solving their own funk.
The Knicks finally snapped their six-game skid with a 42-point blowout victory over the Blazers, 121-79, a day after Mike D’Antoni resigned as head coach, making way for assistant coach Mike Woodson to step in as interim tactician.
A close look at the stat sheet would reveal a change in the gameplan, reflective of Woodson’s approach–New York’s second unit outscored Portland AND their very own first unit. The combined points of Ian Shumpert, J.R. Smith and Steve Novak equal the total points scored by all of New York’s starting five with 59 points, and outscoring Portland’s first five, who only combine for 50 points. The Knicks dished the leather more times than Portland, 35-11, had more rebounds, and lesser turn-overs. Smith led the team with 23 points, while LaMarcus Aldridge and Gerald Wallace each had 15 for the Blazers.
D’Antoni’s resignation came at the heels of the worst slide by the Knicks since Linsanity happened a little over a month ago. What looked like a feel-good story at first all of sudden turned into a nightmare when the team started piling up losses, at a time when New York had their two all-stars Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire back in the roster, as well as having role players like J.R. Smith and Baron Davis joining the team’s regular rotations.
With such a depth of players in their team, the only thing left as target for accusing fingers was the coach, and it wasn’t long before D’Antoni felt the blaming indexes directed at him for failing to bail the Knicks out of their slump. After 3-and-a-half seasons, D’Antoni ended his stint with the Knicks with a 121-167 win-loss record, a far cry from his 267-172 tab when he was with Phoenix.
And then this drubbing by New York of Portland.
If this means anything at all, it could be that things are changing. But whether for better or for worse will be tested when the Knicks play a game outside of their home floor, visiting Indiana a day after they host them on the 16th.
But for now, let Woodson savor his first win.
And then let him get back to work and prove his worth.