When Mike Woodson took over for Mike D'Antoni on March 14, he demanded more accountability from everyone on defense, and it worked. The Knicks held opponents to 91.5 points per game -- the fourth-best mark during that span.
One of the ways he's gotten that message across is by consistently reminding the players about his championship run with the Pistons in 2004, during which he was an assistant coach.
"He always talks about it," Baron Davis said before the Bobcats game Thursday night. "He always references the Pistons and what they were about. More so, like how they came to work and how they were about defense every time they stepped on the floor. So we hear that a lot and we have the ability and belief in ourselves to be able to accomplish anything we want."
Davis said the guys have developed that mindset because they've formed a friendly bond on and off court. During games, they have each other's back, lending support, constantly communicating and celebrating big plays together. You can also see that team approach play out in the locker room before and after games. When one player cracks a joke (usually Amare Stoudemire), they all laugh and discuss it, and they're playful, giving each other pep talks and bear hugs. It's a very welcoming environment, where chemistry is very evident -- even where those not associated with the team will find many of the players approachable.
"I think a lot of it just had to do with at some point in the season, everybody on this team needed someone to lean on through injuries, through our ups, through our downs and just support each other with open arms," Davis said. "I think the best thing about this team is that our spirit and our energy that we have with each other, and our camaraderie, is great."
While the Knicks enter the playoffs as an underdog, Davis said their seeding is not indicative of what they've accomplished under Woodson, coming together and winning games (they were 18-6 since March 14). He said the guys still believe they have what it takes to do what Woody's Pistons did in '04.
"Absolutely," Davis said. "We set our ultimate goal at the beginning of the year, and our goal was to be a championship-caliber team and be playing towards a championship. Through all the bumps and bruises, and all the hurdles and the new coach, we're still a very good team. We're even a better team than we were to start the season and we have a different chemistry, we have a camaraderie that's unbreakable."
Before the Bobcats game, Davis was asked to compare his playoff run in 2007 with the Warriors, when they were the eighth seed and upset the Mavericks (who previously went to the Finals in '06) in the first round. He said that same belief they had about doing what no one thought was possible is with this Knicks team about facing the second-seeded Heat.
"Most definitely," Davis said. "The thing that we had on the Warriors going against Dallas was that we wanted to win. The confidence was there. I think that we have the same type of energy here with the Knicks.
"Nobody's really like saying we're going to win it, but we believe in ourselves and our ability to be able to stop people down the stretch. We have two of the best scorers in the game and we're going to utilize them in the playoffs. They're big mismatch problems. If the game is tight, we have a good chance of winning."
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