Melo's defense becoming 'contagious'

The Knicks turned back their clocks on Sunday, but not just on their watches.

They did it with their defense, like the historic Knicks teams from the late 1990s.

In fact, Sunday's 100-84 win over the Sixers marked only the second time since the 1953-54 season when they held an opponent to 84 points or less in the first two games of the season. The Heat scored 84 points Friday night.

And the Knicks' 2-0 start is their best since 1999-2000.

As an assistant coach on the 2003-04 Detroit Pistons, Mike Woodson proved how defense can lead to a championship. And he's applied that same mentality with the Knicks, who have now convincingly knocked off the Heat and Sixers, who are considered to be better teams in the Eastern Conference.

Before facing Philly on Monday, Woodson said, "That's all I look at, because you're not going to shoot the ball every night. We made a bunch of 3s (against the Heat), but that's not going to happen every night. But if our defense can stay consistent and we rebound the ball with most teams, we'll give ourselves an opportunity to win."

While the Knicks' 3-point shooting dipped on Sunday afternoon to 40.7 percent (they shot 52.8 percent on Friday), their defense remained consistent.

"That's what we've got to do to win games," Raymond Felton said afterward. "Sometimes, you're not going to have great shooting nights, but if you play defense every night, you're going to put yourself in a great position to win."

Carmelo Anthony has been the Knicks' anchor defensively. Woodson challenged Melo last season to make stops when the coach took over in April, and he made strides on that end of the floor. So far this season, he's been challenged by LeBron James and Thaddeus Young, and he stepped up both times. Sunday afternoon, Anthony made it difficult for Young to score down low, and he even had two blocked shots -- one of which he ran down and almost saved the ball while diving into the stands.

"Just the way Melo's been playing, as far as really keying in on defense, guarding his man, diving on the floor for loose balls, diving in the stands. When you've got your star player doing that, everybody else has got to step up and play, no matter what," Felton said.

Scouts agree Anthony is a tough defender, but he just needs motivation, and Woodson has been the right coach to push him. Now, his consistent defensive hustle is rubbing off on the other guys.

"It's really contagious when you see your star player going out there, diving in the crowd, giving up open shots, going for loose balls," J.R. Smith said. "It really filters throughout the team, so as long as he keeps doing that, I think everybody won't have a problem doing it."

The Knicks' defense, especially in the paint where mostly Tyson Chandler and Kurt Thomas limited the Sixers' second-chance opportunities, enabled them to control the defensive glass and then push the ball to dictate the tempo in the game. Doug Collins gave credit to the Knicks for their pressure during his postgame address.

"I thought they were much more aggressive than us," he said. "I think we didn't adjust to the speed of the game, the physicality of the game early. ... I thought that they were a step quicker to the ball. They really moved that ball well."

Woodson's motto has always been making stops leads to easier scoring.

The Knicks appear to have found that rhythm through two games.

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