Mike Woodson finally got what he wanted Thursday night.
For the past week and a half, Woodson had been getting on the Knicks about their lackluster defense. On Thursday against San Antonio, the message seemed to sink in.
Woodson's Knicks limited the red-hot Spurs to 36 percent shooting in a dominant 100-83 win at the Garden, sweeping the season series with the Western Conference power for the first time in 10 years.
In doing so, the Knicks looked more like the team that got off to an 18-5 start. and less like the one that had lost three of its past five, allowing opponents to score more than 100 points in each defeat.
New York improved to 17-2 when holding opponents to under 100 points. "You’ve got to play defense if you want to win," Jason Kidd said.
Those are words that Woodson has been telling his team for the better part of two weeks. But it took a Thursday morning film session for the lesson to sink in.
Woodson showed his team tape of defensive highlights from their first 12 games, when they were among the top 10 teams in the league in opponent field goal percentage and defensive efficiency, a measure of points allowed per 100 possessions.
The video served as a reminder of what the Knicks were missing in recent games: effort on the perimeter and a stronger commitment to help defense. They had plenty of both against San Antonio.
"We just got back to basics," Tyson Chandler said. "Sometimes you have to step back and take a look at (what you've done)."
Added Kidd: "It was like starting the season all over tonight, where guys were in the right places. ... We were making the extra effort, contesting shots and we got the win."
The Knicks played solid perimeter defense from the opening tip. They limited San Antonio's pick-and-roll -- a key to its attack -- and challenged a majority of their 3-point shots. San Antonio hit just nine of 34 3-point attempts.
That effort also leaked into other areas of defense, such as the interior. New York held San Antonio to four paint points through three quarters and 12 for the game, outscoring them by 24 in the painted area.
Kidd said the Knicks got back to communicating on the defensive end, something that had been missing of late. "When you can do that, that’s half the battle," Kidd said. "We were doing that early in the season and then we relied on our offense to bail us out. Tonight, we got back to playing defense."
The Spurs were playing their fourth game in five nights, so that should be taken into account when discussing the Knicks' defensive effort. But San Antonio came into the Garden with one of the hottest offenses in the league. Tim Duncan's club shot 53.4 percent from the field and scored 111.7 points per game during its past seven games -- all wins.
Before the game, Woodson called San Antonio the best team in the NBA. So it was even sweeter for the coach when the Knicks beat the Spurs by shutting them down on defense, the side of the ball that matters most to Woodson.
"We played great tonight. We beat a damn good ballclub," Woodson said. "That team never beats themselves. So we were pretty good."
After being downright awful on defense for the past few nights, 'pretty good' was a step in the right direction.