The Knicks could not capitalize on any momentum they took with them into Atlanta as head coach Mike Woodson returned to his old stomping grounds last night, suffering a 100-90 loss to the Hawks.
Woodson spent six seasons as head coach of the Hawks, leading them to the playoffs in the three latter seasons. Not able to help push the Hawks past the Conference Semi-finals, Woodson was fired in 2010 but is now getting a small chance at redemption with a team that expects success in the New York Knicks. The team has blossomed thus far with Woodson at the helm, taking an 8-1 record until last night's contest.
The Knicks have played with a higher defensive intensity as of late, while still maintaining a fluent rhythm on offense. Plain and simple, the team hasn't missed a beat and is playing their best basketball of the season.
Perhaps more impressive than their efforts on the court has been the Knicks' ability to cope with various injuries down the stretch. Woodson has been able to motivate his team enough to win, despite stars like Amar'e Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin sidelined. What's more, Carmelo Anthony and Baron Davis have also been playing through the pain of their own respective injuries.
Unfortunately for Woodson and the Knicks, the team looked out of sorts last night as their flaws began to burst through.
Though the Hawks did in fact become only the second team to score 100 points against the Knicks in the Woodson era, the team's defensive effort wasn't overly concerning. Joe Johnson went to work, pouring in 28 points as he shot 50% from the field and journeyman Willie Green exploded off the bench for an efficient 20 points of his own to lead five different Hawks in double-figures. The Hawks had a nice flow to their offense with young stud Jeff Teague running the show, but even all this offensive firepower did not entirely sink the Knicks.
Instead, it was the Knicks' own exhaustion and stagnant offense that kept them from winning this game. No Lin resulted in Davis once again starting at point guard, but he struggled mightily, which may have set the tone for the rest of the team. Davis committed careless turnovers and shot poorly as he encountered difficulties helping his team keep the pace.
Steve Novak was covered well by the Hawks and clearly wasn't able to get things going on offense in order to give the Knicks a boost. What's more, J.R. Smith continued his less than stellar Knicks tenure, only converting on two of his ten attempted shots.
With no fluidity to their offense, this Knicks' loss appeared reminiscent to their early season blues in which Carmelo Anthony attempted to carry the team on his back with little to no other help at obtaining a victory. The good news is that Anthony did relish in such a role last night, displaying leadership and exploding for 36 points. Iman Shumpert also recorded his second straight 25-point performance.
The only positive caveat to last night's defeat for the Knicks is that this was only one game. There's a lot of time to bounce back and not make such a mundane effort a common occurrence. This may prove difficult, however, if the team does not get healthy or see someone else step up to the plate. Tyson Chandler joined the group of his teammates coping with pain, and Coach Woodson appears uncertain about the returns of Stoudemire and Lin.
Despite all this, the Knicks will once again look to display some resiliency as they take on the Cavaliers later tonight.