A lot of streaks came to an end with the Knicks 89-87 Game 4 win over the Miami Heat at Madison Square Garden on Sunday.
The Knicks ended their own 13-game postseason drought as forwards Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire won their first playoff game with the franchise.
The win also stopped interim coach Mike Woodson’s personal postseason skid at seven games, going back to the second-round sweep he suffered at the hands of the Orlando Magic when he coached the Atlanta Hawks in 2010.
But if you think Woodson had something to prove personally on Sunday, think again.
“I’ve lost some games in a row, but I was also capable of taking the team, a young team and putting them in the playoffs and getting to a second round,” Woodson said during a Monday morning media conference call in response to a question by the New York Post’s Marc Berman. “That counts for something. So it aint all the games you lose in a row, Marc. We were pretty successful with that team and they’re still playing pretty good basketball in Atlanta.”
Woodson wasn’t retained after that season in Atlanta, and it’s anyone’s guess if the same scenario will take place this summer in New York. As Bill Ingram mentioned in the NBA@2 on Friday, Woodson will have other suitors this summer of the Knicks decide to hire Phil Jackson or John Calipari.
Of course, if general manager Glen Grunwald decided against retaining his former college teammate at Indiana, that could be a tremendous disservice to the fans.
Woodson not only took over an 18-24 team that was floundering out of the playoff picture in mid March. He’s survived an endless string of bad luck to somehow sustain the Knicks’ season.
During Woodson’s brief tenure as interim coach, Jeremy Lin tore a meniscus in his left knee, Amar’e Stoudemire suffered a bulging disc, Jared Jeffries has been severely limited because of his own knee issues, Baron Davis’ entire body betrayed him before he ultimately dislocated his patella tendon during Sunday’s win, Tyson Chandler came down with a serious case of the flu right before Game 1 of the first-round series with Miami, Iman Shumpert tore his ACL in the third quarter of Game 1, Stoudemire lacerated his left hand on a fire extinguisher door after the Game 2 loss and Carmelo Anthony shot under 35% from the field over the first three games of the series.
It’s no wonder why the Knicks trail the Heat 3-1. It’s actually a miracle the series isn’t already over.
And through all of the negative circumstances, Woodson kept his composure. He never lashed out at his players and he didn’t toss the playbook out the window. In fact, Woodson has continued to build on a lot of what former coach Mike D’Antoni brought to the Knicks. Specifically, New York has tried to use the pick and roll on occasion, even though their pick-and-roll point guard, Lin, is still sidelined following his April 2nd knee surgery (Lin could return for Game 5, but that’s unlikely and Woodson isn’t counting on him).
“He remained positive, he remained confident,” Carmelo Anthony said of Woodson’s. “His main message was to take it one day at a time and that’s what we’ve been doing. (Game 4) was a big day for us, a big game for us. We stepped up to the challenge, and we left it all out there on the basketball court.”
The fact that Anthony, who was practically booed off the court following a 17-point loss in Game 3, and Stoudemire, whose self-inflicted wound kept him out for that defeat, ended up combining for 61 points in Sunday’s win speaks volumes about Woodson’s trust in his players.
There are other coaches who wouldn’t have pushed for Stoudemire to return (he made the decision to come back right before Game 4) or would have steered the offense away from Anthony after his 7-for-23 shooting performance in Game 3.
But Woodson supported his co-captains, even going as far as to ask New Yorkers to not boo Stoudemire before Sunday’s game.
Of course, Woodson isn’t asking anything for himself. He refuses to make his case through the media, instead preferring to focus on the task at hand.
“Right now, it’s not about Mike Woodson and my contract and where I go from here,” he said. “I was given an opportunity to coach this team, I’m still coaching this team and the job is not done. And, you know, when that time comes, I’m sure everybody will sit down and talk about my future, but right now, that’s not my concern. My concern is Game 5 right now. I’m trying to get these guys ready to play.”
On Sunday, in the face of overwhelming odds, the Knicks were ready to play. And given a full offseason, who knows what Woodson is capable of. His 18-6 finish to the regular season should be the start of something big with the Knicks, but in this town, you can never be sure.