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Knicks revive their principles on both ends

12/20/2012

Monday's night loss to the Rockets featured a completely different Knicks team than the one that's now jumped out to an Eastern Conference-best 19-6 record.

See: 109 points allowed, a season-high 25 fast-break points given up, a season-high 17 turnovers, only eight points from Tyson Chandler, and 29.0 percent 3-point shooting. And there was no Carmelo Anthony.

After the game, coach Mike Woodson and the players all said the same thing: "We went away from our principles."

So the game plan for Wednesday's game was pretty simple: "Get back to them." And that's just what they did, knocking off the Nets 100-86 -- playing the brand of basketball that led to their 8-1 start, when they scored very efficiently and were tops in the NBA in defense.

For starters, Anthony returned after missing the past two games with a sprained left ankle. And as usual, he went off in the first quarter for eight points. His presence, which forced the Nets to double him in the post and clog the lane when he drove, enabled the Knicks to space the court well and move the ball fluidly. Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd, as always, further fine-tuned the ball movement, and the Knicks tied their season-low in turnovers with seven. They also shot better from beyond the arc (11-for-29; 37.9 percent).

In addition, Anthony also improved the Knicks' pick-and-roll game between Felton and Chandler. The Knicks started running a special half-court play, and kept on running it because the Nets couldn't stop it. It started with Felton handing the ball to Melo in the high post -- if he didn't have anything, he passed back out to Felton on the wing. From there, Melo and Chandler set a double-screen for Felton, with the center rolling to the basket and the small forward popping out to 3-point range.

The formation featured the Knicks' top two offensive options, therefore putting more pressure on the Nets -- especially Brook Lopez, who got dusted by Chandler (16 points) for several alley-ooop finishes.

"They didn't want to leave our shooters, which is kind of smart," J.R. Smith (19 points) said. "But at the same time, Tyson gets those easy lobs. I mean, it's really like pick your poison at this point."

The Knicks got it done on defense as well. They increased their pick-and-roll pressure and were very reactive in rotation, which eliminated open lanes for the Nets, forcing them to pass around the perimeter more and then take contested outside shots. And the Knicks took advantage of the long rebounds -- like the Rockets did -- and pushed the ball, scoring 13 fast-break points compared to the Nets' four.

"We're back on track again," Woodson said. "Our switches were right on the money and our pick-and-roll defense was solid with guys getting into the ball. That's how we came out in camp, and that's how we played tonight."

"We were really aggressive," Felton said. "We got stops, kept guys in front of us, we rotated as a team, we rebounded after they took shots and we didn't give them any second-chance points. We did all the right things tonight."

One more encouraging things Wednesday night? Oh yeah -- Anthony's game-high 31 points.

You can follow Jared Zwerling on Twitter.