The Knicks didn’t get off to the torrid start head coach Mike Woodson preferred, but they sure did finish strong in a 100-83 win over the Spurs.
Led by Carmelo Anthony’s 23 points, and 20 points off the bench from J.R. Smith, the Knicks (22-10) managed to shake their doldrums by pounding the Spurs (26-9) into submission late.
New York was impressive in the second half, despite shooting 39.5 percent from the field in the first half. They ironically never lost their collective shooting touches from behind the arc, as they shot 44.4 percent from 3. Thankfully for the Knicks, though, the Spurs were woeful from all areas of the floor, shooting just 36.4 percent from the field, including an atrocious 26.5 percent from 3.
Woodson came into the game worried about the lack of defense lately, but was definitely pleased following the game, even giving the entire team the day off on Friday, before they head to Orlando on Saturday night.
“I thought we were slacking the last 10 games, and our defense was kind of going the other way,” Woodson said, adding the team’s video production crew gave his squad some inspiration. “We put a nice feel-good tape together this morning to show our players what we did based on earlier this season — when we were No. 1 on defense and No. 1 number one on offense. … We were doing everything right at the beginning of the season.”
The Knicks looked old and slow in the first half, but something clicked in the second half. The Spurs had their own excuse for their poor showing, as they were taking on the back-end of a back-to-back. The Knicks had no such initial alibi, as they didn’t have a game on Tuesday, and several key players — including Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Jason Kidd — were given “recovery days” to rest their bodies.
The 39-year-old Kidd said he appreciated Woodson’s decision to rest him, and added he and the team as a whole rewarded their coach.
“I think we addressed the problems that we were having earlier,” said Kidd. “The biggest thing was to not come out flat again. And we started talking again on defense. We felt that we weren’t communicating defensively, which led to our slow starts. … We think we’re back on track.”
Knicks center Tyson Chandler — who will never be
mistaken for a Hall of Famer — actually outplayed Duncan en route to 10
points and a game-high 14 rebounds. Duncan had just 11 points and six
rebounds, and he wasn’t the dominant presence NBA fans have been
accustomed to seeing.
A 12-2 run to start the fourth quarter was all the Knicks needed to go up by 20 points midway through the fourth quarter. They cruised to the finish line in style — including a three-minute stretch that featured smooth 3-pointers from Steve Novak, and an electrifying reverse alley-oop dunk by Smith off a sweet lob pass from Pablo Prigioni with about five minutes remaining in the game.
Prigioni appreciated the way they closed out the final quarter, and especially gave praise to his newfound alley-oop partner.
“I like him a lot, [because] it doesn’t matter how you pass the ball, he will catch it. He’s amazing,” Prigioni said, adding that Smith played a complete game. “I think the key tonight was defense, and he was a big help. We got stops on defense and when we needed a shot it was either him [Smith] or Melo. … Our last 10 games our defense was bad, but tonight our defense was good, very good.”
» There’s a need for ‘Sheed, as the Knicks’ defense has suffered since power forward Rasheed Wallace began dealing with a stress reaction in his foot. His absence wasn’t felt Wednesday night, but the numbers don’t lie. Without Wallace’s length, basketball IQ, versatility and intensity, the Knicks are 16-4 and have allowed just 93 points per game. But when he’s not in the lineup the Knicks are 5-6 and give up 103 points per game.
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.