By John Schmeelk
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Over the past couple weeks, everyone has detailed ad nauseum the main reasons why the Knicks are having the type of success they are. From Carmelo Anthony, to the point guards, to the defense, there are too many reasons to count. What’s especially encouraging to me has been the team’s ability to win ugly.
No one watching the Knicks-Pacers game would have talked about how they just enjoyed two hours of beautiful basketball. It was 41-30 at halftime, and both teams shot under 40% for the game. It was sloppy. It was ugly. If a team wants to be able to win consistently over the course of an 82 game season, they have to be able to win games like those. It was beautiful.
As much as I think of Mike D’Antoni as a head coach, the Knicks just didn’t win games like that when he was head coach. If the team had a poor shooting game they were probably going to lose. It was the nature of how he coaches and plays. His great offensive system made those days few and far between because of the great ball movement and so many wide open shots, but it still happened. They tend to happen even more in the playoffs when the defensive intensity is turned up and the officials let both teams be a little more physical. Now the Knicks can win those types of games.
For the over thirty crowd, it should remind them of the Riley and Van Gundy Knicks of the mid and late nineties. NBA fans hated those Knicks-Heat Sunday afternoon battles that were only a couple levels above a Brooklyn street fight. New York fans loved them. At times it barely resembled basketball, but more often than not the Knicks would come away with wins. It just had the feel of New York basketball, just like Mike Woodson’s team does today.
There’s also a nastiness and attitude this year’s team tends to have. If an opposing team gets physical the Knicks go right back at them. There is no intimidating this group. Now, this can sometimes be a negative too, which we saw against the Grizzlies when technical fouls were called left and right and the Knicks seemed more concerned with the referees than the game. But if the trade off is some techs for toughness, I’ll take it. Charles Oakley, Xavier McDaniel and Anthony Mason got their share in the 90’s.
The veterans have also instilled a sense of calm and confidence late in games. Guys like Jason Kidd and Tyson Chandler calm the team when they have to, and allow comebacks like the one against the Spurs. The Knicks have played some of their best basketball, especially defensively, in the fourth quarter. They are able to dial the defense up another level and it shows when other teams struggle scoring the ball. It’s the sign of a very good defensive team.
There really are no players on this team that anyone could consider soft. Even Steve Novak, a three point spot up shooter, has shown a willingness to get dirty when he has to. Everyone is willing to mix it up, play defense and do all the dirty work you need to win basketball games. I hope Amar’e Stoudemire is willing to do the same when he gets back.
I usually like to deal with measurables and other technical basketball stuff, but in this case I love the intangibles the Knicks are showing on the floor. The team feels the way a Knicks team should feel. It fits with the history of the franchise and their success. You can thank Woodson, Glen Grunwald and the players for that. They know how to win ugly. They know how to play Knicks basketball. It’s beautiful to watch.
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Are the current Knicks resembling their hard-working teams of the 90’s? Let us know…