Let the Wood-sanity begin.
Preaching defense and accountability — perhaps the polar opposite of D’Antoni’s style — Woodson has changed the attitude of his players and the results have shown in remarkable fashion on the court.
Since going on a nightmare six-game losing streak that saw them fall out of the playoff picture, New York has outscored its opponents by an average of 23.7 points while holding two of the last three opponents under 90 points to recapture the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.
Defense and bench depth have been the key to the streak, and they beat the Indiana Pacers for the second time in as many nights, 102-88, this time in Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
From Tim Rohan of The New York Times: “On Saturday night, it was Woodson’s bench that reminded the Knicks of their new winning ways — that aggressive and energetic efforts on defense can mesh with a wide-open, democratic offense. The bench supplied the defense and the stars sealed the game down the stretch as the Knicks beat the Indiana Pacers, 102-88, extending their winning streak to three games. It was their second consecutive victory over Indiana, which has the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference. After the joyride of Linsanity, followed by a six-game losing streak that resulted in Mike D’Antoni’s resignation as coach, the next step was both unpredictable yet perfectly logical. Carmelo Anthony shared the ball, and Smith, Shumpert, Jeffries and Novak played inspired defense. “I think this is the identity that we should’ve had all year,” said Tyson Chandler, the team’s defensive leader. “Play aggressive defensively, share the ball offensively. I think that’s the thing that we’ve been trying to get to. And for the last three games, we’ve been playing that way.”
From Peter Botte of New York Daily News: “As recently as a week ago, Danny Granger would have been right on target to gloat that a home-and-home set against the Knicks over the weekend represented two “winnable games” for the Pacers… “I guess it was two winnable games. For us,” Carmelo Anthony said. “We’ll take that.” And they’ll gladly take even a minor rebirth of Linsanity, which was alive and well in the land of the Hoosiers with backup Baron Davis nursing a hamstring injury. Jeremy Lin pumped in a team-high 19 points, with six assists, seven rebounds and just two turnovers in 33 controlled minutes. “I thought Jeremy Lin was great tonight, made a lot of great plays,” Woodson said. “I’m just happy we got the win, and I’m learning to play in a less spread offense,” Lin said, comparing Woodson’s half-court style to D’Antoni’s more wide-open system. “A lot of stuff is still the same, but there are times when I won’t have as many opportunities. “I just need to be selective when I go. I think tonight was a big step for me.””
From Steve Bulpett of Boston Herald: “The Celtics were up against an unholy trinity — coming east one time zone to play the second night of a back-to-back at altitude, possessing three starters in their 30s and going against a young team willing to run them off the Rockies. But after the 98-91 loss to the Nuggets last night, the guys who dress for this holiday every single game were cursing the fact they didn’t save themselves. The Celts waited until late in the third quarter before engaging the Nuggets in battle. They came as close as two points, but the damage they had done ultimately created a mountain of deficit too high to climb. “I told the guys when we won eight out of 10 games, that’s how we play,” said Doc Rivers, whose club has now lost two straight. “We relaxed against Golden State and we won the game. And then we thought we could come out and do that again against Sacramento, and we got our butt kicked. “I thought we got outworked (by Denver) in the first half simply — missed a lot of layups at the basket and all that, but I just thought we got outworked.”
Though it came in a losing effort, Kevin Garnett hit a true milestone as he became the first player in NBA history with 20,000-plus points, 10,000-plus rebounds, 5,000-plus assists, 1,500-plus blocks and 1,500-plus steals.
He also got to meet a man nicknamed “The Manimal” who had more than half the total rebounds Boston had in just 23 1/2 minutes.
From Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: “Well, on Saturday, Faried played the biggest game of his Nuggets career, also at Pepsi Center, leading Denver to a 98-91 win against Boston with 18 points, a career-high 16 rebounds and 8-for-8 from the foul line (not bad, considering he shoots just 57.1 from the line). “He is a ball of energy, he really is,” Boston coach Doc Rivers said of Faried. “He plays the right way. I love watching him play. I loved watching him play last year (at Morehead State). He is one of the guys who is always around the ball. He is over himself — by that I mean that he plays the game for the team. It’s refreshing when you have guys like that.” Denver’s Danilo Gallinari was big, scoring a team-high 20 points. In the first half alone, Gallo scored 15 points, splashing three 3s, making all six free-throw attempts, while delivering the highlight of the night — a behind-the-back pass to Faried for a dunk.”
- As they have several times this season, the Bulls continued to find a way to win without Derrick Rose as they defeated the visiting Sixers 89-80. C.J. Watson filled in with 20 points and Joakim Noah added 13 points and 11 rebounds. Jrue Holiday had a season-high 30 points didn’t have enough help as Spencer Hawes was the only other player in double figures with 10. Chicago, which leads the league in rebounding, dominated the glass 53-39.
- The Clippers rallied behind Chris Paul’s 12 points in the final 2:42 to squeak by the Rockets 95-91 for just their second win at home in five games. Paul led the team with 23 points, five assists and five steals while Blake Griffin added 18 points, eight rebounds and four assists in limited minutes due to foul trouble. Newly acquired Nick Young did not play and is likely to play within the next two games.
- For the second time this season, the Mavericks defeated the Spurs 106-99 for their third straight victory and snapped San Antonio’s three-game winning streak. Dirk Nowitzki led all scorers with 27 points and Jason Kidd had his first double-double of the season with 14 points and 10 assists. Free throws were an issue for the Spurs as they shot just 10-18 from the stripe.
- The Bobcats have been on a roll (for them) as of late, defeating the Raptors 107-103 for their third win of the month. They won a total of three games in the month of January and February combined. D.J. Augustin controlled the game with 23 points and 11 assists, Gerald Henderson had 24 points on 11-of-14 shooting, and Corey Maggette added 21 points. Jerryd Bayless was stellar once again for Toronto with a game-high 29 points and six assists.
- After being down 12 points to begin the fourth quarter, the visiting Hornets rallied to beat the Nets 102-94 as they outscored New Jersey 32-12 to end the game. Chris Kaman and Marco Bellinelli led with 20 points apiece while Jarrett Jack added 16 points and six assists. The Nets played their first game with the newly acquired Gerald Wallace, who scored just 11 points, while Deron Williams returned to action with 20 points and 12 assists.
- The Jazz downed the Warriors at home in overtime 99-92 for their sixth straight home victory. Derrick Favors — filling in for Al Jefferson who attended his grandmother’s funeral — dominated with season highs 23 points and 17 rebounds. Utah dominated the boards 65-40 against diminutive Golden State. Richard Jefferson suited up for the first time and shot 2-of-14 for nine points in 37 minutes.
James Park is a regular contributor to Sheridanhoops.com. Follow him on twitter.