Updated: November 6, 2012, 10:10 AM ET

1. Knicks Winning In Impressive Fashion

By Brian Windhorst
ESPN.com

It isn't realistic to think the New York Knicks are going to continue at the torrid pace they have set during the first days of the season, which was extended Monday night when they blasted the Philadelphia 76ers for the second straight night, 110-88.

Never before in team history have the Knicks won the first three games of the season by double digits. So far their average margin of victory has been just a shade under 20 points. Even with the Sixers missing Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson, that's not just stunning, it's downright historic.

This sort of dominance cannot last but it also shouldn't be cheapened by calling it a simple hot streak. There are some trends developing that the Knicks might be able to rely on to establish an identity they can count on when all those jumpers aren't falling as freely.

Knicks
Howard Smith/US PresswireJ.R. Smith had a 17-7-5 line in the win.

The Knicks just aren't going to average 14 3-pointers a game on 45 percent shooting from outside the arc all season as they have for the first three games. It would be hard to believe that they're going to average 105 points a night or routinely go 19-of-19 at the foul line, as they did Monday in what was another nearly flawless teamwide effort.

There are a few positives going on that are more sustainable and those are what are serving as notice to the rest of the league.

Overall, the Knicks' defense has been remarkable in the early going, even matching up with teams featuring strong offenses. The Heat started the week with the second-most potent offense in the league and were held to just 84 points by New York. The Sixers averaged 103 points in the preseason only to see their offense blown up by the Knicks' active and aggressive defense on back-to-back nights.

One of the reasons Mike Woodson was able to keep the job as coach were the improvements he made to defense when he took over last season. With an entire training camp to create some habits, his team is off to quite a defensive start. The Knicks are allowing only an average of 85 points and 41 percent shooting over the first three games.

These are basic stats but also the two numbers Woodson heavily focuses on. He writes them on the board in the locker room for his players to see and track.

The reason those numbers are low is the activity the Knicks are showing defensively. Last season when he won the Defensive Player of the Year Award, Tyson Chandler joked that he owed a lot to his teammates because they had let so many players drive past them to force Chandler to pick them up and make plays that got him attention. Right now, though, the Knicks' help defense and rotations have been aggressive and crisp, already easing the burden on Chandler.

In part because of additions Jason Kidd, Ronnie Brewer and Pablo Prigioni, the team is now stocked with perimeter defenders who like to get into passing lanes and pick pockets. The Knicks are averaging a whopping 10 steals a game and it has helped them put up 17 more points total than their opponents off turnovers in the first three outings. These are trends that lead to wins.

So is the way the Knicks are doing the inverse and taking care of the ball offensively. Monday they only had seven turnovers and so far are committing about five turnovers fewer than their opponents per game.

This again can be attributed to having more ballhandlers on the roster with Kidd, Prigioni and Raymond Felton all acting as professional point guards out there. So far the Knicks are averaging three more assists and four fewer turnovers per game than they did last season, part of the recipe for a more efficient team. This is happening with three expected rotation players -- Amar'e Stoudemire, Iman Shumpert and Marcus Camby -- out for the time being.

There was an expectation that the Knicks were going to be improved this season as their offseason moves made their bench deeper, shored up some weak spots on the roster and gave them a few more offensive options. It was not expected they would emerge from the preseason already showing so much chemistry and across-the-board improvement in both quantifiable and intangible categories.

The Knicks aren't just 3-0 and owners of three straight blowout wins -- they are looking like they could be the surprise team in the Eastern Conference based on what they've shown thus far.


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