Friday, March 30, 2012

Knicks hope that 'defense wins championships'

Michael Moraitis writes of the old adage 'defense wins championships', and how the New York Knicks new-found commitment to stopping their opponents can push them into the postseason.

Don't look now, but the New York Knicks defense is ranked 12th in the NBA, allowing 94.6 points per game this season and fifth in defensive efficiency. What was a solid defense under the anti-defensive coach Mike D'Antoni is now starting to look like an elite defense under Mike Woodson.

The Woodson-led Knicks are 8-1 and the theme of those eight wins has been defense. During this nine-game stretch, New York has allowed only two of its opponents to break 90 points and only one those opponents, the Indiana Pacers, broke 100.

The Knicks still won that game by 15.

Once New York brought in a top defender in Tyson Chandler, it was thought the culture of this team's defense would immediately change. And while it did upon Chandler's arrival to Madison Square Garden, it wasn't quite where it is now.

Since the coaching change, the Knicks are playing with a new level of energy on the defensive side of the ball.

The reasons for this are two-fold:

1. Woodson's defensive-minded approach gives the Knicks a better gameplan for opponents as well as more structure on the defensive side of the ball.

2. Woodson keeps his players on the floor for shorter stints and in turn, the team has more energy to play defense for the period of time they are on the floor.

Even notoriously bad defenders like Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony have been playing the best defense of their careers. Both are beginning to dispel the idea they are incapable of playing defense. Granted, neither are perfect, but not even the biggest haters can deny that when you watch these guys that they are much improved from what they once were.

All that being said, the biggest problems for New York this season weren't ones that many experts thought it would have.

While the overall health of some of the Knicks' players was questioned—and rightfully so looking at the current injury report—their offense was not thought to be a concern. However, offensively the Knicks have been very inconsistent this year.

It's been their defense that has seen the most consistency. It's been their defense that has picked them up time and time again during the season and saved their numerous offensive droughts during the 2011-12 season.

Like an MVP player, there's no telling where the Knicks would be without their defense. It's been vital to New York's success and it's certainly been the difference between it being on its way to the playoffs as opposed to on its way home for an early finish to the season.

Boy, I never thought I'd say that again about the New York Knicks in my lifetime.

The most important recipe for a championship team is its defense, and it appears the Knicks have that nailed down for the most part. If their offense can ever match the defensive intensity they've displayed this season, the Knicks will be a championship contender.

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