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Schmeelk: The Man Behind Knicks’ Huge Win? Mike D’Antoni

Mike D'Antoni (credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images), Raymond Felton (credit: Greg Shamus/NBAE via Getty Images)

Mike D’Antoni (credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images), Raymond Felton (credit: Greg Shamus/NBAE via Getty Images)

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By John Schmeelk
» More Columns

You would be hard-pressed to find a more unlikely win.

The Knicks were without Carmelo Anthony in Miami on Thursday night. They were playing the second half of a road back-to-back, after the first game required extreme effort from New York in the fourth quarter. Raymond Felton had a bad left hand. Jason Kidd is just coming back from a back injury. By the way, there’s still no Iman Shumpert or Amar’e Stoudemire.

The Heat had a day off on Wednesday and were coming off a brutal loss to the Wizards. They swore up and down they would be ready to take out all their anger on the Knicks. They also remembered the first whooping New York put on them back in October.

Yet the Knicks still won.

They took the game by 20 points, and in the fourth quarter it never closer than ten. This was domination. Obviously, credit the players for their hot shooting and moving the basketball. Also credit Mike Woodson for coming up with a plan that this group could execute, putting them in a position to succeed with top gun Carmelo Anthony on the bench.

Know who else deserves credit? Mike D’Antoni.

Watching the Knicks on Thursday night was akin to watching them at any time during the past three seasons: run the high screen-and-roll, spread the floor and find the open man.

Felton took Jeremy Lin’s spot in his own little version of Linsanity. When the Heat went under the pick-and-roll, there was an open jumper. When they trapped, the Knicks were one pass away from an open three or Tyson Chandler at the rim. When they switched, it became a mismatch for the Knicks guards, who took it to the hoop.

It was unstoppable. It was Mike D’Antoni’s system at its best. It was the only way the Knicks could have won last night without Carmelo Anthony.

We’ve seen Woodson employ that offense for stretches this season, but never for nearly an entire game like against Miami.  After he got the job, Woodson said he would be foolish not to continue to utilize some of Mike D’Antoni’s system in his offense. There were many skeptics, mostly because of the Knicks’ plodding and ball-stopping ways late last year. Now, it’s pretty obvious that was due to a complete lack of competent point guard play after Jeremy Lin got hurt.

Woodson deserves a ton of credit for not being stubborn and adjusting his style to make the team better. Many coaches have their way and stick with it no matter what, but he did what was best for the players and the team.

The Knicks have officially come full circle. They now have the best of both worlds. For all the Knicks fans that couldn’t stand D’Antoni, they now have his offensive system and the players to run it at their disposal when needed. The Knicks lead the NBA in three-pointers — both attempted and made. Last night they shot a ridiculous 44 and made 18. They have a stable of point guards to get those open shots that D’Antoni would sell his soul for.

They also have the defensive intensity and accountability that comes with Woodson. It’s a combination the league is having a hard time dealing with, and I don’t think that’s going to change any time soon.

D’Antoni may not have won a title here with the Knicks. He couldn’t even win a playoff game. But he helped lay the foundation that will help the Knicks contend for a championship this year.

For that, at least, we can remember him fondly.

Schmeelk’s Snippets

- So this means the Knicks are better without Carmelo Anthony right? I hope no one actually is saying that this morning, but I wouldn’t put it past his detractors.

- Raymond Felton will not shoot like that from behind the arc often, but you have to love the way he attacked the paint and found the open man. He showed no fear and only had three turnovers as the primary ball handler against a hawkish Heat defense. The Knicks had just seven turnovers as a team. WOW!

- You’ve got to love the balanced scoring. The Knicks had six players in double figures and eight players with seven points or more.

- The Heat shut down Steve Novak in last year’s playoffs because the Knicks’ ball movement was terrible. Well, it wasn’t in the first two matchups this year and he is getting open looks all over the place.

- Ronnie Brewer did a good job against LeBron James. He has the size and strength to prevent LeBron from bullying him like he does so many other guards.

- LeBron James got no help from his two wingmen last night, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. No-shows. Wade had the Heat’s worst +/- last night, -31. Bosh was second worst with -21. Yikes.

- Something is not right with Miami. Could they have grown complacent so quickly after just one championship? I just don’t sense an edge, especially on defense.

You can follow me on Twitter here for everything Knicks, Giants, Yankees and New York sports.

Give D’Antoni some credit for this one? Let’s get your comments!