Last season, it was clear that after Mike Woodson took over the Knicks in March, he had a positive effect on J.R. Smith. It was as if the two of them developed a father-son relationship. When Smith would make a mistake, Woodson would make sure to call him over to the sideline and give him tough love about what he did wrong. But Smith didn't sneer; he made strides, which he's also been doing this season.
Case in point: After Smith had been struggling to find his shot earlier in the month, the coach pulled his best bench scorer aside during practice on Tuesday and talked to him. What came of it was a 19-point performance (7-for-11) on Wednesday night, as well as a very patient and fluid floor game when he become a primary ball-handler in the second half, during which the Knicks outscored the Nets 48-38.
Woodson talked about their conversation after the game.
"He bounced back from the other night," he said. "He and I had a conversation about his last game and we actually had the opportunity to work a little bit on the floor yesterday. I thought he was totally focused when he stepped out on the floor to start the game, and he carried that throughout the ball game. I mean, I couldn't be more proud of the young man with the way he played tonight. He was very good tonight."
CHANDLER'S CASE FOR ALL-STAR: Entering the game, Tyson Chandler was shooting a league-high 70.3 percent. Against the Nets, he was 7-for-11 from the field for 16 points to go along with 12 rebounds. Most impressively, he was the recipient of five alley-oop finishes -- four from Raymond Felton. They now have an NBA-high 25 converted alley-oops -- the most for any pair of teammates in the league.
The reigning Defensive Player of the Year also changed the game on that end, starting off with his two blocks in the first quarter. Woodson talked about his defensive impact after the game.
"He was solid," he said. "He plugs up holes for some of the mistakes that we make defensively, and he's been doing that all year. I want these perimeter players to take responsibility of guarding the ball and getting over screens, so Tyson doesn't have to work as hard. But he's getting key rebounds, he's knocking the ball out to keep the ball alive and give us extra possessions. That's big, especially coming down the stretch in ball games. I mean, he's doing all the little things that help you win basketball games."
THE TALE OF THE KNICKS' TAPE: Some people at their workplace have calendars with daily motivational quotes. That's what the Knicks have on printouts at the Garden, which are given to every player before games. But where they come from, not even some of the guys know.
While the origin is mysterious for now, the motivation is there. Against the Rockets, it was, "WIN: We don't predict the future; we create it." Against the Nets, it was a quote from Plato saying, "We are twice armed if we fight with faith."
RIVALRY STILL IN PLAY: Even though the Knicks had their way with the Nets, improving to 2-1 in their season series and jumping ahead of them in the Atlantic Division by six games, Felton said don't be fooled.
"It's still a rivalry no matter what," he said. "They're still the Brooklyn Nets, they're a good team; they're just going through a little slump right now. But it's a new team in New York. They're definitely going to be a rivalry no matter what."
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