Knicks' D dominant under Woodson

Two weeks ago, the Knicks were six games under .500, looking like an afterthought in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

They'll wake up Thursday morning just 2 1/2 games out of first place in the Atlantic Division and with a comfortable lead in the eighth spot in the East.

How did they get here? Just ask the man behind the makeover.

"It's been our defense that's put us in this position," Mike Woodson said after the Knicks held the Magic to 86 points in a blowout win. "It's been stifling."

Stifling, suffocating, strangling.

Whatever you want to call it, it's been working under Woodson. And Wednesday night was more of the same for the suddenly defensive-minded Knicks.

Brad Barr/US Presswire

On Wednesday night, the Knicks' D was better than D12.The Magic scored a season-low 12 points in the second quarter; Dwight Howard & Co. were outrebounded by 15 as the Knicks held Orlando to less than 100 points for the first time in its past seven trips to the Garden.

"Our defense just didn't give in," Woodson said.

The Knicks didn't give in, and it looked like the Magic nearly gave up during a 21-0 run in the third quarter, which included six turnovers.

"Our offense feeds off of our defense," Steve Novak said after scoring 16 points off the bench, "We are playing the right way right now."

And it's been that way since Woodson took over.

The Knicks have held opponents to 86 points per game on 40.8 percent shooting under Woodson. With Mike D'Antoni on the bench, New York allowed 96.5 points per game on 44.6 percent shooting. That's one of several reasons they were 19-24 when D'Antoni stepped down.

Woodson tried to change the culture on defense after taking over on March 14. He stressed accountability above all else, with an implication that each player had to exert himself on the defensive end.

And it's clear that, so far, the Knicks have bought in.

Carmelo Anthony, whose never been confused for a defensive stopper, used words like "locked in" and "focused" to describe the Knicks defensive approach against Orlando.

And he did his part on Wednesday by helping to force the Magic to 17 misses from beyond the arc. In January, Orlando dominated the Knicks from the perimeter, knocking down 17 3s.

"We’ve been tremendous on that side of the court," Anthony said.

And much of the credit goes to Woodson, who was brought in over the summer to essentially serve as a defensive coordinator for New York.

If you want to know if Woodson has had an impact, just look at the numbers:

The Knicks ranked 21st in defensive efficiency (a measure of points allowed per 100 possessions) last season. They now rank fifth in the league.

Just call it the Woodson way.

"If you talk about winning your division or getting deep into the payoffs and possibly putting yourself in a position to win a title you're going to have to defend," the coach said. "... We've just got to continue to do that."