Knicks

Hartnett: Knicks’ Scorching Run Backed By Chandler’s All-Effort Defense

Chandler On The Verge Of Making NBA History
(credit: Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

(credit: Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

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By Sean Hartnett
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20-20-20.

That’s what you’ll see under the total rebounds column when you look up the past three games of Tyson Chandler’s game log.

What stats can’t measure is the effort that Chandler brings on a nightly basis.  That’s the thing with Chandler.  His motor is always running when he’s on the court.  He never shuts it down.  The only person who can turn off Chandler’s ignition is Knicks head coach Mike Woodson when he gives him a rest.

Chandler earned a well-deserved rest when Woodson pulled him with 4:49 remaining in the fourth quarter as the Knicks cruised to a comfortable 99-85 victory over the Detroit Pistons.

The Knicks’ big man finished with eight points and 20 rebounds.  It was Chandler’s third consecutive game with 20 boards, tying a franchise record held by legendary No. 19 Willis Reed.

“It’s a tough feat,” Chandler told The New York Times. “It hasn’t been done in a long time, since Willis Reed. And any time you are mentioned in the same breath, it’s a tall task.”

No player in NBA history has ever recorded four consecutive 20-rebound games.  Chandler will have the opportunity to make NBA history on Wednesday in Washington when the Knicks take on the Wizards.

Woodson expects the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year to accomplish the unprecedented feat in Washington.

“That’s what I expect, he can’t tease me,” Woodson declared in his postgame press conference.  “He’s done it three straight games so I’m expecting it for the fourth game.”

The Knicks have won five in a row and are only a half-game behind the Miami Heat for the best overall record in the Eastern Conference.  Much of that is due to the tone that Chandler sets defensively, and the intimidation that he brings when boxing out opponents and hauling down rebounds.

He brings the same intensity and fire regardless of whether the Knicks are behind by a couple baskets in crunch time or leading by double-digits.  That’s why he’s a winner.  It’s why he’s an NBA champion, and it’s a big reason why there’s so much optimism among the Knicks’ fan base.

“We’ve been playing very hard as a team,” Chandler stated. “It’s all about team defense (and)team offense. We’ve been sharing the ball.”

As the Knicks look to knock the Heat off their perch, Chander’s old-school defense brings back shades of Reed.  While the much larger Chandler has never possessed Reed’s soft shooting touch or deft abilities in the offensive low post, he mirrors Reed’s toughness and relentless nature.

The 1970s Knicks stressed teamwork and unselfishness, and that’s exactly what Chandler is all about.  He’ll often sacrifice individual statistics by giving up a rebound and tipping balls out to open shooters with his swinging arms.

More than that, he brings a presence — a get-on-my-back kind of mentality.  Chandler wants you to throw the pressure on his back.

For the first time since the Patrick Ewing-John Starks days of 1994, the Knicks have a genuine chance at earning their first NBA title since 1973.

“We’ve got a big goal,” Woodson said.  “The big picture is that you win an NBA title. That’s first and foremost.  One of the goals was to win our division and hold (the) first round at home.  We’re on pace to do that, we’ve just got to stay the course.”

It’s a long road to the NBA Finals and there’s a number of hurdles that the Knicks must clear along the way, but the goal of winning an elusive NBA title is on their minds and in their sights.

How crucial is Chandler’s defensive intensity to the Knicks’ cause?  Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.