The last time the New York Knicks faced the Philadelphia 76ers, they trailed by 21 points in the second half and their two stars spent the fourth quarter sulking on the bench.
After the embarrassing 12-point loss, their head coach said they didn't show the heart to fight back.
AP Photo/Frank Franklin II
Tyson Chandler at the Knicks are eager for a rematch with the division-leading Sixers.
Plenty has changed in the past 10 days.
The coach, Mike D'Antoni, is gone. The superstars, Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, appear rejuvenated.
And the Knicks are back in the Atlantic Division race.
In fact, with a win at Philadelphia on Wednesday, New York (22-24) can climb to within three games of the division lead.
"I think tomorrow's a huge game," Tyson Chandler said after the Knicks scored a 19-point win over Toronto on Tuesday night. "I think both teams know it. Any time you're able to face a team in the division and get a full game, especially at this time in the season [it's big]."
Chandler was one of four Knicks starters in double figures on Tuesday. He and Anthony had 17 points, Stoudemire led the team with 22 and Jeremy Lin added 18.
The Knicks have relied on that balanced scoring and stingy defense since Mike Woodson took over for D'Antoni on an interim basis last Wednesday. The Knicks improved to 4-0 with Woodson on the bench, rebounding from a six-game skid to move into sole possession of eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
"I always felt that this team would get it together at some point," Chandler said. "I just felt like we had to keep grinding and keep grinding. Once things start going the right way and you start seeing the right formula, it makes things easier."
Things were anything but easy for the Knicks the last time they faced the Sixers. After the loss on March 11 (their fifth straight), Anthony said the Knicks' lacked confidence and energy.
"I think right now we're playing at a different level," Anthony said Tuesday, "a very high level.
"Guys seem like they're committed on every possession, taking every possession serious. We want to go in to Philly and take on that challenge."
The Sixers started the season 20-9 but have since cooled off, losing 11 of 17, including seven of their past 11 at home. But they're still one of the top defensive teams in the NBA, leading the league in points allowed per game, opponent field-goal percentage and points per possession.
"They have a team full of talented players that play together and play the right way," Woodson said. "They get after you defensively. I'm just hoping our group meets the challenge."
If the past four games are any indication, the Knicks should be fine. They limited opponents to 39 percent shooting in Woodson's first three games on the bench. On Tuesday, they held the Raptors to 87 points and out-rebounded them by 16, holding a 16-4 advantage on the offensive glass.
"That was great. Anytime you're able to get second shots, it kind of deflates the defense," Chandler said.
Tuesday's win also gives the Knicks a second shot at the division title, which would likely keep them from a first-round matchup against the Miami Heat or Chicago Bulls.
"We kind of put ourselves right back in the mix of things," Chandler said. "And now we've got to seize the moment."
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