Knicks win laugher; their D is no joke

Published Apr. 13, 2012 1:00 a.m. ET

It’s tough to say whether it was the Wizards’ comically futile offense or the Knicks’ vigorous defense that contributed more Friday night to New York’s 103-65 romp.

But both teams probably would prefer to think it was the Knicks who were primarily responsible for Washington’s 27.8 percent shooting in its most lopsided defeat since March 2008.

Whatever was key to this laugher, the Knicks' new-and-improved defensive mindset under interim coach Mike Woodson is nothing to laugh at — and could signal they'll be a formidable foe in the playoffs. 

“It’s fun out there playing basketball the way we’ve been playing, especially on the defensive end,” said Carmelo Anthony, who scored 18 points.

“It’s fun playing defense now, and guys see that. Guys, we thrive off of that and we thrive off of each other.”

In fact, since Woodson’s promotion following the departure of the offensive-minded Mike D’Antoni, the Knicks — who as recently as last season were one of the 10 worst defensive teams in the league — have climbed into the the top five in defensive efficiency.

In the 17 games since Woodson took over, New York has allowed just four opponents to score 100 points, while holding 10 opponents to less than 90 points. Not surprisingly, they’re 13-4 in that span.


“To be on the other side of that when you can’t score the basketball, I know that has to be difficult,” Anthony said. “But on the flip side . . . it’s fun to stop guys.”

Now New York will shift its attention to a Miami Heat team that, unlike Washington, will bring plenty of offense to the Garden on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. ET.

The Knicks are 9-0 at home under Woodson — a mark that will surely be put to the test by LeBron James & Co.

“We’ve been playing well here at home, and it’s going to take all 48 minutes for our players to really tune in and concentrate and play tough basketball,” Woodson said.

If they’re going to run that win streak to 10 in Sunday’s litmus test — or, more important, if they’re going to challenge the Heat in a potential playoff matchup down the road — the Knicks will need to depend on their D.

“I thought they dominated us when we were there,” Woodson said of his team’s two previous meetings with the Heat — a 99-89 loss in Miami on Jan. 27 and a 102-88 road loss Feb. 23.

“Our games were fairly close during stretches, but I thought their defense overshadowed our defense, and that was the difference in Miami.

“Hopefully we will have learned from that. We’re a lot better, I think, defensively, and it’ll be a big test for our ball club.”

J.R. Smith led the Knicks with 23 points, while Baron Davis (celebrating his 33rd birthday) and Steve Novak added 18 each.

As for the 14-45 Wizards, Friday was another one of those nights, with the starting backcourt of John Wall and Jordan Crawford combining for a miserable 8-of-32 shooting.

“It’s embarrassing, is what it was,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said.

“It looked like we were overwhelmed from the jump ball when we walked into the arena.”

The Wizards did manage one highlight-reel play on a blooper-reel kind of night — an alley-oop from Crawford to Wall, who jammed it home over Davis with 7:06 left in the third quarter.

But the next Washington field goal didn’t come until the 6:57 mark — of the fourth.

During that span of 12:09 — yes, the Wizards went the equivalent of more than a quarter without a field goal — a 17-point New York lead ballooned to 38, and a Garden-variety blowout turned into a laugher.

“That’s an incredible stat,” Knicks center Tyson Chandler (eight points, 15 rebounds) said of the Wizards' futility.

“My guys out there were playing great defense, they were all over the place communicating, talking, and that’s a sign of the growth that we’ve been having lately.”

At one point toward the end of the run, with the Wizards still stuck on 47 points, the Garden crowd even started chanting Washington’s point total.

“I was looking for a jersey,” Novak said. “Who’s No. 47?”

Novak said it with a laugh. But the Knicks' new defensive approach is no joke.