You beat teams you're supposed to beat. It's one of the basic tenets of sports. And so far, it's one the Knicks have followed to perfection.
New York took care of the Wizards and Suns this weekend at Madison Square Garden -- two teams with a combined record of 8-24 -- to improve to 12-4 on the season.
They are a 7-0 at home and 6-1 against teams that are under .500.
"You have to beat the teams you're supposed to beat," Tyson Chandler said after his 15-point, 13-rebound afternoon against Phoenix. "We talk about it all the time."
They talk about it, and then they do it.
But that wasn't the case last season. Before the Knicks turned to Jeremy Lin in early February, they had some embarrassing home losses to some of the lesser teams in the league. Under Mike D'Antoni, the Knicks lost home games to Toronto, Charlotte, Phoenix, Milwaukee and Cleveland -- a who's who of NBA lottery teams.
So what's the difference this year? Aside from the obvious (coaching, personnel, a veteran presence), the Knicks' approach has changed.
"I just think guys are hungry," Mike Woodson said. "They're more committed to wanting to win and do well this year.
"Not to say that they weren't [last year], but when I took over, things changed somewhat. ... It's just different, and as coaches, we're trying to make it different."
It starts at point guard. Last season, the Knicks were trotting out Toney Douglas, Mike Bibby and an unproven Lin to run the show. This season, they have Raymond Felton, a future Hall of Famer in Jason Kidd and 35-year-old rookie Pablo Prigioni.
With the Bibby-Lin-Douglas triumvirate, they ended the season ranked 29th in turnovers per game (16) and had the third-worst assist-to-turnover ratio. This year, they're turning it over a league-low 11.4 times per game and they lead the league in assist-to-turnover ratio. On Sunday, they had 21 assists and just eight turnovers.
"I just think we're playing the right way," Steve Novak said. "We have a solid roster, top to bottom."
To Chandler, that's one of the biggest reasons the Knicks have taken care of business against the league's bottom-feeders.
"Maturity in the locker room," Chandler said. "You've got guys that have won in the league, guys that understand that these are the games that, when you're jockeying for position, are going to make all the difference in the world."
One more factor in the Knicks' turnaround? Carmelo Anthony.
Simply put: Melo's expanded his impact on the game. In addition to scoring, Anthony now gives you an honest day's effort on defense and moves the ball out of the double-team as good as any player in the league.
Melo heard MVP chants midway through the fourth quarter on his way to a 34-point afternoon against Phoenix. He soaked it in on the floor and acknowledged with a smile after the game that he probably wouldn't have heard those cheers last season.
"I'm just taking it one day at a time, just working," he said. "We're working as a team. As a result, that's what you hear."