- Ian Begley, ESPN Staff Writer
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For the past two games, the Knicks have been defending the rim, denying on the perimeter, getting to loose balls and creating turnovers.
Just call it the Mike Woodson way.
"For 3 1/2 quarters, I thought our defense was as good as it's been all year," Woodson said after the Knicks' win on Friday night. "It was kind of like a playoff atmosphere defense."
That 'playoff atmosphere defense' has been on display for the past two games at Madison Square Garden.
On Wednesday night, the Knicks forced 23 turnovers against Portland. On Friday, they held Indiana to 39 percent shooting and had 31 points off of 17 Pacers turnovers.
"From the tipoff, we've been aggressive," said Carmelo Anthony, who had two of the Knicks' 12 steals. "We've been a team that's going after it defensively. We came together these last couple of days as a unit."
It's hard to ignore the fact that it's happened with Woodson on the bench.
In Mike D'Antoni's last ten games as coach, the Knicks suffered breakdown after breakdown on the defensive end. According to ESPN Stats & Information, New York allowed 103.7 points per 100 possessions in D'Antoni's final ten games on the bench. They went 2-8 in that span.
In Woodson's first two games as interim coach, the Knicks have allowed jut 89 points per 100 possessions.
So why the sudden change?
"The concepts are the same," Jeremy Lin said, "But I think we're playing harder, we're playing together. We're playing as a unit."
Of course, it helps when Tyson Chandler and Jared Jeffries are healthy. The Knicks didn't have Chandler for two games during the 2-8 slide. Jeffries missed four games.
On Friday, Chandler had four blocked shots and seven rebounds to go along with 16 points. Jeffries added a blocked shot and bothered Indiana on the inside.
"It was incredible," Chandler said of the Knicks' defensive effort. "We made it tough for them. We didn't let them breathe and we didn't let up at any time."
But it was more than just Jeffries and Chandler against the Pacers.
All five Knicks starters had at least five rebounds. Indiana shot just 36 percent in the paint, had 12 first-half turnovers and finished with 11 second-chance points, an area where the Knicks had struggled in D'Antoni's final days.
"I think we're all buying in," Baron Davis said.
Was that not happening with D'Antoni running the show?
Woodson didn't want to go there.
Maybe because he didn't want to offend D'Antoni. Woodson chalked up the Knicks' effort on defense to the fact that they're trying to get in the playoffs.
"We're playing for something," the coach said. "We were knocked out of the playoff picture in that stretch (when they struggled defensively). And we're trying to get back in. ... We're playing with more urgency now and that's important. I've got to continue to push them in that area."
Just call it the Woodson way.
ESPN Stats & Information's Alvin Anol contributed to this report.
3hMatt Walks, ESPN.com
3hOhm Youngmisuk and Ian Begley
2dOhm Youngmisuk and Ian Begley
8dESPN Stats & Information