Before Mike Woodson assumed interim head coaching duties the New York Knicks were hemorrhaging losses in the midst of a six-game losing streak and 2-8 over the previous ten games. In the nine days since, the Knicks have won five consecutive games, Carmelo has discovered his commitment to defense and Lin-Sanity has continued to plague the streets of New York.
USA Today put the difference between Woodson’s Knicks and the last 10 games of the D’Antoni era, when he finally had the entire roster healthy and at his disposal, into perspective.
Here's a comparison, with statistics of those last 10 games vs. the first five under Woodson:
W-L record: 2-8 vs. 5-0
101.5 vs. 105.2 —Up 3.7 pts.
103.6 vs. 86.6 —Down 17 pts.
Games allowing 100+ pts.: 7 vs. 1
44.4% vs. 46.2% —Up 1.8%
44.4% vs. 40.6% —Down 3.8%
16.0 vs. 14.8 —Down 1.2 pts.
Carmelo Anthony's scoring average: 19.0 vs. 14.2 —Down 4.8 pts.
13.9 vs. 9.6 —Down 4.3 attempts
17.1 vs. 13.4 —Down 3.7 attempts
28.0% vs. 43.8% —Up 15.8%
Anthony's FG%: 40.4% vs. 38.8% —Down 1.6%
34.1 vs. 29.4 —Down 4.7 minutesAnthony's avg. minutes: 34.2 vs. 28.6 —Down 5.6 minutes
The most glaring statistics are Carmelo Anthony’s minutes and points per game as well as Lin’s shooting numbers.
Anthony was already playing a near career low in minutes per game this season and it appeared to irk him during the losing streak. However, his minutes and points per game have dipped even further to unfathomable lows which would be fine because the Knicks have been resting their stars in the fourth quarter while the bench nurses big leads. However, his shooting percentage is even more atrocious.
Meanwhile, Jeremy Lin’s shots per game, minutes, and field goal attempts have decreased but his field goal percentage has increased by 16%.
Despite the decreased minutes for Anthony and Lin, the Knicks are averaging more points per game and are allowing 15 fewer points per game. That’s absolutely remarkable. Even at the height of Lin-sanity, the Knicks weren’t playing defense at that level even against the bad teams.
The Knicks new balance and embrace of physical defense is a great sign for the future. The Knicks have won by a total of 93 points under Woodson. The last four head coaches to take over during the season and win their first five games were Lenny Wilkens, Kurt Rambis, Red Holzman and Lawrence Frank.
Red Holzman took over during the 1978-79 season after winning a pair of NBA Finals in the early 70’s as the Knicks head coach. Frank took over a New Jersey Nets unit that had been to a pair of NBA Finals. The year Wilkens took over, he led the Supersonics to the NBA Finals and won it all the next season.
Phil Jackson who immediately added five additional championship banners to the Lakers rafters and visited the Finals seven times replaced Rambis. While Rambis’ example may not bode well for Woodson’s future, if the Knicks can replicate these performances into the playoffs against the league’s elite, Woodson should be rewarded with a lengthy contract and a new title as permanent head coach.