Knicks Defeat 76ers For 5th Win In A Row
Led by a rejuvenated Amare Stoudemire, The New Yorks grinded out a tough 82-79 win against the Philadelphia 76ers in Philly last night. With the W, the Knicks improved to 5-0 since interim coach Mike Woodson took over for the recently departed Mike D’Antoni.
Is it too early to buy into Woodsanity? Perhaps. It is clear during this stretch though that the team is playing with more energy and intensity on defense since D’Antoni and his system left town. The Knicks beat down the Pacers in consecutive nights, and last night’s win was over the same Philly team that embarrassed them at the Garden a little over a week ago. It has been mentioned that some players had become disenchanted with D’Antoni’s divvying up of the minutes and had tuned out him to such a degree that few on the roster were willing to go all out to try and save his job. While it’s unfortunate that professional athletes would a need a kick start to give the maximum effort each time out, D’Antoni leaving has coincided with the Knicks second longest winning streak of the year. In addition, team camaraderie has improved drastically as there has been an immediate buy in from the players to Woodson’s philosophy of playing tough defense and holding everyone accountable.
As for Amare Stoudemire, it has been great to see the STAT of old on display during the past few games. His usual explosiveness had been absent for most of the season, but in his words this year’s All-Star break enabled him the opportunity to get his body right and back to where it was prior to injuring it in the playoffs last year. Against the Sixers he threw down a couple of vicious dunks and had a monster block on Elton Brand late in the game to help seal the victory. His reemergence on offense has helped the team compensate for Carmelo Anthony’s continued struggles with his outside shot and overall offensive game. Did Melo lose some of his explosiveness this season? I don’t ever remember seeing him get his shot blocked so often, seems to happen at least twice every game now.
The Knicks now sit only three games behind Philly in the Atlantic division standings, but with the Celtics only a game out New York will have to keep winning games at a high rate if they are going to leapfrog both and claim the division title. Additionally, with the Milwaukee Bucks still hanging around their hold on the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race is tenuous at best. The Bucks have owned the Knicks in recent years, making this Monday’s game at the Garden between the two even more intriguing.
Woodson isn’t guaranteed anything with the Knicks besides finishing out this season, and there has already been speculation that James Dolan will take a run at convincing Phil Jackson to come out of retirement to coach in Gotham. Woodson’s best chance for removing the interim tag from his name would be to lead his new team to a lengthy playoff run. He has the players make it happen, and if they keep buying in on defense the sky’s the limit.
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