Tim Hardaway Jr. was singled out by his head coach after the Lakers win. Credit: Getty Images
While a 110-103 win over the Lakers was important to a Knicks squad trying to scratch its way back into the playoff hunt, what mattered as much to head coach Mike Woodson was the way the supporting cast has played during its two-game winning streak.
“I’ve always wanted a team that the [opposing] defense doesn't know where the points are coming from,” said Woodson, who added he’s been stressing ball movement and extra passing in recent practices. “When [Carmelo Anthony] has been doubled he looks for other guys. They just have to step up and make those open shots. ... Lately, they have.”
Woodson firmly believes that if the Knicks are to finally get back into the Atlantic Division race, he’ll need more than his All-Star forward to shoulder most of the load. Woodson specifically named rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. as being instrumental in helping New York (17-27) get back into the playoff hunt.
“Tim isn’t your ordinary rookie. He’s a bit ahead of the game,” Woodson said, mentioning the rookie’s work over the years with his father, Tim, who was once a star in the league, as being instrumental in his growth.
Woodson immediately mentioned the lanky rookie can also do more than just score once he bulks up and further understands the team’s defensive nuances.
“Once he gets stronger he'll be even better on defense,” Woodson said. “Our defense has gotten better, much better. We saw that [Sunday] with better ‘D’ in the fourth quarter. ... That’s how we’ll get back into the [playoff] race — defense. That’s when you need it to carry you home and get wins. We need to continue to get better and continue to execute like we have.”
Felton agreed that defense and sharing the offensive responsibilities will be the only way to get his team back into the playoff conversation.
“We [the supporting cast] have to keep making plays. We don’t want Melo to be the only guy [scoring]. When teams double him, other guys have to step up and make plays,” said Raymond Felton. “Our defense is better [and] having Tyson [Chandler] back to himself after being out for so long is helping. He’s our big horse behind us if somebody beats [the perimeter defense]. Everybody is trying to do a good job of keeping guys in front of them, helping each other, making rotations. ... It’s been fun basketball again.”
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter@TBone8.