Mike Woodson had no explanation for why his team was flat on Friday night in Toronto.
“Bad coaching,” he said. “That’s what I called it.”
Good coaching, however, came afterward when he immediately addressed the team after that 96-79 loss to the Raptors.
“We’ve got to make sure this don’t linger,” Woodson told them.
The Knicks could barely afford to chalk this one up to just a bad shooting night. No, not at this point of the season. Not with the Milwaukee Bucks nipping at their heels while they’re still hanging in the Atlantic Division race.
And if this group really wants to prove that they’ve turned a new leaf since Mike D’Antoni’s departure and the mission to turn this season into something special is legit, they go into tonight’s game against the Detroit Pistons with purpose. We’ve seen this team let one bad loss turn into six straight as they wallow in self-pity.
Woodson had a front row seat to it, which is why he spoke up. No one expected the Knicks to run the table, so losses and bad nights were going to come. Right now, in the evolution of this team, it’s not as much about what just happened as it is about what happens next.
“It’s very important we get the game,” Chandler said of tonight’s game against the Pistons. “We’ve got to come out with great energy.”
Amar’e Stoudemire added, “We’re playing for something here. We’ve got to take that kind of mentality into every game.”
And the games get tougher again after this brief run of sub-.500 teams. After tonight, the Knicks face a crucial game against the Bucks at the Garden, then have dates with the Magic, Hawks, Cavs, Pacers, Magic again, plus a home-and-home with the Bulls and then, yep, another meeting with the Bucks.
We’re about to learn what this team is really about over the next three weeks. Are they resilient? Or are they the same old front-running Knicks we’ve seen all season?
“We’ve got to bounce back,” Woodson said. “We’re playing at home, in front of our fans, and we’ve got to go home and win a game.”
As they say, it’s Winnin’ Time.
THE INTERNATIONAL ZONE COASTER
Raptors coach Dwane Casey employed a strategy that the former Dallas Mavericks assistant coach knew helped beat the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals and it put the Knicks on lockdown on Friday night.
The Raptors packed into a zone defense and the Knicks spent the night tossing bricks at the Air Canada Centre rims.
“It’s pretty much the same zone,” said Chandler, who was a big part of that strategy for the Mavs last spring. “It’s designed to force you to take jump shots and we fell into the trap, honestly.”
The Knicks scored 42 points in the paint, but took 28 three-pointers. They made just five — all by Steve Novak — and shot an anemic 37.6 percent from the field. This shouldn’t be a surprise because the Knicks have been in the bottom third of the NBA in shooting all season.
Jeremy Lin didn’t attack the zone with dribble penetration. The few times he did, he was quickly trapped and was neutralized. Baron Davis was equally inept. The zone countered the pick-and-roll and the Knicks inability to stretch the defense by making open perimeter shots was a recipe for disaster.
And, yes, you can expect that scouts have taken notice.
“There are going to be other teams that play zone,” Woodson said. “We’ve just got to execute and make plays against it.”
Carmelo Anthony‘s shot is officially lost. But after his 6-for-15 performance in Toronto, he said it was his rhythm that is missing.
“I’m looking for it,” he said. “So if anybody finds it, tell me.”
He said he remains confident in his shot and believes it’s only a matter of time before he gets it back. Slumps happen, but what Melo is going through has been almost a season-long issue and now it’s impacting an area of his game that used to be such a big part of his offense: free throw shooting.
His strong moves to the basket and quick release have always resulted in him getting to the line at a regular basis. He averages 6.3 free throw attempts per game and is an 80 percent shooter from the line in his career. Easy money.
Now consider this: Carmelo did not attempt a free throw against Toronto and was 0-for-1 against the 76ers. It was the first time in his career that he went consecutive games without making a free throw.