NEW YORK – It was not corrected in the New York Knicks’ pre-game notes, or in the program’s sold to the packed Madison Square Garden crowd on Wednesday night, but the news that head assistant coach Mike Woodson was promoted to interim head coach prior to the Knicks’ home matchup against the Portland Trailblazers, had “The World’s Most Famous Arena” all abuzz.
Mild mannered in demeanor, broad-shouldered and suited up, Mike Woodson did his best Clark Kent impersonation along the Knicks’ bench in an easy 121-79 win over the swooning Portland Trailblazers.
Smith, who went 8 of 18 from the field, shot almost exclusively from downtown, where after downing seven 3s, he threatened to overtake Latrell Sprewell’s Knicks’ record of nine 3-pointers in a single game.
Had Smith (who claimed that his team could win a championship if they played this way every night) merely been the only Knick with the knack, it would have been enough, as New York forced Portland into a season-high 27 turnovers for 31 points.
With sharp-shooting Steve Novak scoring a season-high 20 points, including six three-pointers, New York would convert on 19 attempts from beyond the arc, good for second all-time in franchise history.
Defeated by 42 points, Portland received 15 points apiece from LaMarcus Aldridge and Gerald Wallace (game-high 12 rebounds), and were bereft of guard Jamal Crawford, who missed the game with a case of tendinitis.
“It was ugly,” said the Trailblazers’ Marcus Camby (two points, three rebounds) of his team’s performance. “We did not come out with the mind frame to compete at this level and it definitely showed…we came out and we were not hitting shots…”
With the Knicks brandishing their Nueva York jerseys on Noche Latina night at MSG, the salsa cam showed the fans suddenly loud and proud as the Knicks snapped a six-game losing streak with the resignation of former head coach Mike D’Antoni.
“You know when you fire your coach, and I don’t know the situation, but when you go through something like that they [the Knicks] might play more rejuvenated and show that that was a good move,” commented Aldridge on the Knicks’ coaching change midway through the season.
Woodson, who was brought in as a defensive specialist meant to even out D’Antoni’s seven-second-or-less style of offense, will now have his chance to show that team defense can not only win games, but result in multitude of points too, as it did in the win over Portland.
New York did commit two defensive three-second violations, but they also held the Trailblazers to a season-low 29 points at halftime.
How long the good feelings will last in Manhattan will probably depend on how the Knicks finish the rest of the way as they seek to get back the eighth and final playoff spot from the Milwaukee Bucks; a team that they have lost 12 of their last 14 contests to, including twice this season.
“We are still trying to stay in the playoff hunt,” said interim head coach Mike Woodson. “You have to win at home [New York is 12-10 at home this season]. When you have a team that hasn’t been assembled that long long, the first thing is learning to win at home…Tonight they responded,” added coach Woodson.
With a schedule that features games against nine playoff contending teams, including three with the Indiana Pacers, two with the Bucks and Chicago Bulls, and one each against the Orlando Magic and Miami Heat, the Knicks have anything but an easy path as they look to turn high expectations into wins.
With a new commander in chief at the helm, Linsanity (Lin posted a 6-6-6 Wednesday evening in points, assists and turnovers), and a healthy Carmelo Anthony (16 points, seven assists) and Tyson Chandler (nine points, seven boards) back in the starting lineup, the time for the Knicks to shine is now.
“We have no choice at this point,” remarked Amar’e Stoudemire (17 points, eight rebounds in the win) echoing the importance of the team coming together at this juncture late in the season. “Because at this point and time we have our backs against the wall, we’re trying to chase this playoff spot, so that’s what we are after right now. We have to play that way with a sense of urgency and play together.”