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Knicks' 8-1 jump-start caught all of the NBA by surprise

JAIME C. HARRIS Special to the AmNews | 12/3/2012, 1:55 p.m.
Knicks' 8-1 jump-start caught all of the NBA by surprise

Few followers of the NBA, if any at all, expected the Knicks to begin the 2012-13 season by winning eight of their first nine games. They accomplished that impressive mark mainly by playing outstanding defense.

During the Knicks' 8-1 start, they allowed only two opponents, the San Antonio Spurs (100) and the Memphis Grizzlies (105), to reach or exceed 100 points. In the Knicks' first five games, the Dallas Mavericks were the only team to surpass 90 points.

So it came as no surprise that the Knicks sustained back-to-back losses for the first time in the current campaign by surrendering a total of 245 points last week against the Mavericks and Houston Rockets.

"Our defense wasn't what it normally [is]," said guard Raymond Felton on Sunday in the Knicks' locker room after facing the Detroit Pistons, stating what was apparent in the Knicks' losses to the Mavericks and Rockets. "It's nothing else really behind it that we can say."

From the day he replaced Mike D'Antoni as head coach a little over eight months ago, Mike Woodson has impressed upon his squad that their long-term success is predicated on playing consistently strong defense. The sports axiom that defense wins championships still applies to a large degree in basketball.

The past two champions, the Mavericks, anchored by Tyson Chandler, now the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year with the Knicks, and the Miami Heat, buoyed by LeBron James, the best all-around defender in basketball, won primarily because they were able to frequently make stops, particularly in the late stages of games.

The Knicks hit the defensive reset button at home versus the Pistons on Sunday, giving up an innocuous 100 points while scoring 121 in a victory, bettering their record to 9-3 before a much-anticipated matchup on Monday in Brooklyn against the Nets.

The Knicks were in Milwaukee last night (Wednesday) to face the Bucks and will host the feeble Washington Wizards tomorrow at the Garden.

"Win or lose, we have to stick to our [defensive] principles," said Chandler in the Knicks' locker room on Sunday.

"We kind of got away from some our defensive schemes," said Woodson. "When you consistently do something, you just have to continue to do it."