Woody, Knicks trying to return to old form

Mike Woodson's Knicks face a big test against the Miami Heat on Sunday afternoon at MSG. Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- When it comes to the New York Knicks, Mike Woodson is a realist.

He won't let the team's recent three-game winning streak cloud his judgement.

Like anyone else whose been watching the team, Woodson knows that the Knicks today are a very different team than the one that beat the Miami Heat by 20 points twice earlier this season.

"I watch enough tape to know that we’re not at the level we were earlier in the year," Woodson said on Saturday. "I’m trying to get us back to that level."

Sunday's game against the Heat should tell Woodson just how far his team needs to go to get back to "that level."

Miami enters the afternoon showdown at MSG as the hottest team in the NBA, riding a 13-game winning streak.

The Knicks have won three straight following a season-long four-game losing skid.

Their recent play reminds Carmelo Anthony of the Knicks squad that started the season 6-0.

"These last couple of games we’ve been playing the same way, especially offensively, spreading the court," Anthony said. "Just early on this season, we were making the shots that we’re not making right now...Once we get back to that, we'll be fine."

Ah, the outside shots.

Once a staple of the Knicks' offense, New York's three-point shooting has dried up of late.

In their 18-5 start, the Knicks were shooting 41 percent from beyond the arc, the second-best percentage in the league. In the 32 games since, New York has hit just 34 percent of its threes, the 22nd best rate in the NBA over that span.

The Knicks are just 17-15 after that hot 18-5 start.

At times, they've looked like a run of the mill NBA team; other times, they've looked much worse.

Their recent stretch includes losses to the Sacramento Kings, Portland Blazers, Washington Wizards and Toronto Raptors (twice). Entering play Saturday, those teams were a combined 59 games under .500.

It's worth noting that the Knicks weathered injuries to Raymond Felton, Rasheed Wallace and Marcus Camby during that stretch. They've also reintegrated Iman Shumpert and Amar'e Stoudemire into the lineup.

But that doesn't excuse their defensive issues over the past two-plus months, particularly in guarding the perimeter.

"We came out of training camp so focused defensively. It was great. The level that we were playing at, the communication, that's slacked off throughout the season," Tyson Chandler said. "Whether it be from injuries or just the course of the season, whatever it is, I don't know."

The numbers bear out Chandler's point.

In their first nine games, the Knicks allowed opponents to score 100.7 points per 100 possessions, the 12th best total in the league. After their 8-1 start, that number jumped to 104.6 points allowed per 100 possessions. They rank 19th in the NBA over that span and have given up 100 points or more in 19 of those 44 games.

"It's just (not) being committed," Woodson says of the Knicks' defensive struggles. "We were committed all the way across the board (earlier in the season). It didn’t matter who played or how many minutes a person played, we were committed. We just got to get back to that.

"There’s not a team that we can’t beat, but we got to be committed."

The Knicks will walk on the floor Sunday with a 35-20 record, tied with the Indiana Pacers for second place in the East. So there are reasons to believe they can end up with one of the top spots in the conference.

But in order to compete for a title, Woodson knows they need to get back to being the November Knicks.

"We're playing some pretty good basketball ... but I want more," he said.

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