By Dennis Berry
It’s been a long time since the Knicks got off to this good of a start to a season. The last time the Knicks started 6-0 was during the 1993-94 season. That season they went 7-0 to start the year and would end up in the NBA Finals.
Who knows if this Knicks squad can go that far, but this doesn have Knick's fans hopeful for the first time in a long time. The Knicks have beaten the 76ers, Mavericks, Spurs, and Heat – all teams with winning records. With Madison Square Garden rocking, Knicks tickets are getting harder to come by.
So what is the key behind the Knicks' fast start?
The most important part to the Knicks' early season success has been their improved defense. Going into Monday night the Knicks had the best defense in the NBA, giving up only 90 points a game. That is because teams are only making 33.6 shots a game against the Knicks.
They are only giving up 11.8 fastbreak points a game. Their improved defense also shows in the fourth quarter where they are only giving up 19 points in the final quarter.
It’s a credit to head coach Mike Woodson, who took over after Mike D’Antoni was let go because he is more defense-minded. The Knicks are keeping teams to just 43% shooting from the floor and 35% from behind the three point line.
Woodson even has Carmelo Anthony playing some defense.
Another reason the Knicks have the best record in the East right now is because of the improved play at the point guard position. The three man rotation of Pablo Prigioni, Raymond Felton, and Jason Kidd has been great for the Knicks.
Steady play at point has allowed for better offense. Going into Monday night the Knicks have averaged the fewest turnovers a game at only 10.4 turnovers. The offense has even looked better because the Knicks have better ball movement than they have in the past. That is part of the reason they have almost a 2-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Another aspect that guys like Felton and Kidd have brought to the Knicks has been some much needed veteran leadership. Along with Tyson Chandler and Rasheed Wallace, the Knicks have a group of veterans that have won in this league. They know what it takes and you can see a different look to them this year.
It helps when veteran players like Wallace and Kidd are willing to take on a lesser role also. All they care about is winning and that can spread throughout the team when the veterans do that. Everybody knows what their role is and they are playing within it.
Then there is Carmelo Anthony & J.R. Smith. Anthony is averaging 23.6 points & 7.6 rebounds a game. His shooting is a little down, but Anthony is one of the best scorers in the league who has the green light whenever he wants it.
Smith has become an outstanding sidekick to Anthony. He is averaging 16.3 points a game, while shooting 48% from the field and 60% from the 3 point line. He seems to let the offense come to him more instead of forcing shots in high volume like he has in the past.
The Knicks have been the surprise team in the East this year and have the best record in the conference heading into Tuesday night’s game with the New Orleans Hornets. This has been down without Amare Stoudemire being in the lineup due to injury. If they can work him back into the rotation and distribute the chemistry that the Knicks have going now, this could be a dangerous team this season.