5 Things We Learned from the New York Knicks in Week 2
The New York Knicks are two weeks deep into the NBA season, and have beat every opponent put in front of them. We've learned a bit more about the new-look Knickerbockers in recent days, and most are very encouraging for New York.
Mike Woodson's squad is the last remaining undefeated team in the sport. At 4-0, the Knicks are alone at the top of the Atlantic Division, and the Eastern Conference.
The offensive domination seems to be keeping up with that of the defense, and the team appears prepared to take on the weakened Orlando Magic on Tuesday night.
Let's walk through what we can take away from the Knicks' most recent games.
They'll Fight Back to Cut Down Deficits
The Knicks won their first three games of the season by double-digit margins, but that run was in doubt—at least for a little while—on Friday.
Against the Dallas Mavericks, New York trailed 41-32 with just over six minutes left in the second quarter.
It was the first time they faced any sort of deficit beyond the opening minutes—they already handily defeated the Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers (twice). Knicks fans were curious to see how their team would react to their first test of the season.
It's safe to say they passed.
New York went on a 12-to-3 run to erase the Mavericks lead and tie the game at 44 in just two minutes. The Dallas cushion escalated to five just before the halftime buzzer, but a last-second J.R. Smith three-ball cut the margin to two, and the Knicks trailed 57-55 at the break.
The energized Knicks team took the lead halfway through the third, and that was the closest Dallas would get the rest of the night.
Excellent offense and stellar defense solidified the Knicks' fourth straight win to open up 2012, as they completed a 19-point turnaround by winning 104-94.
Toughness Will Be Key
Last season, one of the Knicks' biggest flaws that ultimately held them back from advancing past the eventual champion Miami Heat, was their lack of heart and toughness.
Countless times in the playoffs, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and other Heat players would storm their way into the paint with little to no repercussions. When the Knicks attempted to drive the lane, hard foul after hard foul deterred them from easy buckets.
Knicks players simply didn't possess the indescribable key ingredient: the fire to rise up when it mattered the most.
This season, all of that is different. With a revamped, veteran core, New York's roster is stacked with seasoned players who have been there and done that all before.
This was personified in Friday's contest against Dallas, when things started to get chippy. Vince Carter and other Mavericks weren't thrilled with some of the actions of Knicks players, and before long, some jawing was taking place.
This year's Knicks team, led by Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and J.R. Smith, didn't shy from defending their teammates. The Knicks nucleus has lacked the will to fight back in recent years, but this small showing demonstrated that this Knicks team has a brand new attitude.
The electric passion culminated with a few minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, when the former Maverick Chandler slammed home an Anthony miss. The center then exploded with excitement, and sent the Garden into a frenzy as he iced the game.
"I wanted us to put it away, so I wanted to try to do something to get my guys going," Chandler said to ESPN New York.
Defense Will Stay in the Spotlight
Through four games, the Knicks have yet to allow an opponent to score 100 points.
This is an extension from last year. Since Mike D'Antoni's resignation, the Knicks are allowing 10 fewer points per 100 possessions.
Mike Woodson's emphasis has clearly been put on that end of the floor, and the results are astounding. The Knicks are allowing a league-best 87.5 points per game—better than the 88.2 pace the Chicago Bulls set last season.
Surprisingly, Carmelo Anthony has led the way. His outstanding passion on defense and on the boards have set a great tone for New York. Against Dallas on Friday, 'Melo blocked two of the team's four shots.
The Knicks stole the ball 12 times against the Mavs, led by J.R. Smith's four and Jason Kidd's three.
Most importantly, the team is playing great defense without getting into foul trouble. By playing lock-down defense with their feet, rather than their hands, the Knicks are only averaging 17.5 fouls per game as a team—the least in the NBA.
Free Throw Shooting Needs More Consistency
The Knicks followed up their 100 percent performance from the charity stripe against Philly with a 68.4 percent showing Friday at the Garden.
The team's 76.7 percent shooting from the line is good for 12th best in the league, but must improve if New York wants to be classified among the elite.
The team does a good job of getting to the line—it has drawn the most fouls in the league to this point—but that won't mean much as the season trudges along if opposing teams know the Knicks shoot bricks from the stripe.
The Knicks will need more 19-for-19 clinics than 26-for-38 horror shows if they want to hold on to the East's No. 1 spot.
Turnovers Will Play to Their Favor
Friday against Dallas, the Knicks turned the ball over only nine times, while forcing the Mavs into 20 giveaways.
It's all because of a little game that Mike Woodson has arranged with his players.
For every in-game turnover over 13, Knicks players owe one baseline-to-baseline sprint the next practice. For each game the team accumulates less than 13 turnovers, Woody and his coaching staff run.
So far, the bribe has worked to perfection.
The Knicks have committed only 45 turnovers—or 11.25 per game—which is good for best in the NBA. Their opponents are giving it away to the tune of 18 per game.
Last season, the Knicks turned the ball over more than every team but one. The marked improvement is one of several reasons the Knicks have morphed from underacheivers to title-contenders in just one offseason's time.