The Knicks needed to flex some muscle as they came into Sunday night’s game on a four-game skid. Leave it to defensive anchor Tyson Chandler to lead the way, as they got off the schneid with a 99-93 win over the 76ers.
Chandler’s impact wasn’t necessarily felt in the box score, as he had 14 rebounds and just five points, but it was the edge he played with all game that seemingly affected the youthful Sixers and spurred his veteran team.
“When you lose four in a row, and we haven’t done that very often, you’re a little on edge,” said head coach Mike Woodson, adding he appreciated Chandler’s and Carmelo Anthony’s feistiness, but doesn’t want his stars crossing the line. “Of course, Melo has to control his emotions, but he’s a physical player and he likes contact, which is great. He certainly doesn’t back away from contact.”
The 7-foot-1 reigning Defensive Player of the Year showed why he’s one of the most feared and respected post players in the league as he shut down Philadelphia center Spencer Hawes and helped the Knicks earn a rare win in the rebounding department, 48-44.
Chandler noted that the team discussed how they’d attack the Sixers during their pregame preparation and added that the team had a bit of desperation in their play.
“I think we came out more aggressive tonight, especially with our trapping defense that set the tone,” Chandler said. “Four losses [in a row] will wake you up, so we had to stop the bleeding.”
The Knicks (33-20) used a 28-18 advantage in the second quarter as they imposed their will on the Sixers (22-32), including a stretch in which the Knicks held the Sixers to 2-of-10 shooting to start the quarter.
Carmelo Anthony led New York with 29 points, as he remained in attack mode all night, setting a season-high with 18 attempted free throws.
Immediately following the game, Anthony acknowledged that he was taking it hard to the rim to force the hands of the officials.
“They were calling it tonight,” Anthony said, taking a playful shot at the referees. “Nothing has changed. I always try to stay aggressive and get to the rim. But this time they were calling it for me.”
Anthony wasn’t the only Knicks player to force the Sixers’ hands as Amar’e Stoudemire added a season-high 22 points on an efficient 9-of-10 shooting. The lack of cohesion between the duo has been an ongoing issue for a couple of seasons now, but Sunday night was a time for the Knicks to revel in the fact that Anthony and Stoudemire excelled playing together. The jelling was so rare to see that it was just the third time all season both Anthony and Stoudemire notched 20 points or more in the same game.
Anthony, in particular, was happy to see how well his fellow cornerstone meshed.
“We needed that energy from him, especially with him coming off the bench and leading that second unit,” Anthony said of Stoudemire. “He’s one of our go-to guys and keys to our team. We expect this from him.”
Stoudemire was happy to contribute to the win in any manner, noting he was able to “establish good post position and [be] patient,” but added the most important factor was the team’s desperation.
“After losing four-straight games it’s never a good feeling, so we came out with more intensity than usual,” he said. “We just wanted to dominate from the start, especially with that team that’s in our division. … It was a good win, because coach was saying this was a must-win.”
» Sixers’ point guard Jrue Holiday notched 30 points in consecutive games against the Knicks, making it the first time since Allen Iverson did it in 2006 that a Sixer accomplished such a feat against them.
» Raymond Felton said his heel isn’t anything to worry about, even though he came out for a spell to get checked out by head trainer Roger Hinds: “I’m good, I’m fine. No tests needed.”
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.