Knicks know win against Raptors will make Mike Woodson happy at break
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GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Regardless of whether the Knicks beat the Toronto Raptors Wednesday night , they will have fallen short of Mike Woodson's goal for his team's first-half finish.
Last month the Knicks coach said he challenged his veteran-laden team to win nine of its final 11 games before the All-Star break, hoping his players would take advantage of a stretch against seven teams with sub-.500 records.
The Knicks responded to Woodson's words with seven wins in 10 games, extending their lead atop the Atlantic Division from one game on Jan. 25 to 31/2 games.
That's why Woodson isn't about to make the team run extra laps for missing his goal.
"If we win, then we'll be 8-3 in that stretch and I'll still take that," Woodson said Tuesday after practice. "We're still on the top of our division, which is where we want to be."
Added Amar'e Stoudemire: "We definitely saw there was . . . a stretch where we could take advantage of the schedule. So far, so good."
So as the Knicks prepare for the final game of that noted 11-game stretch -- and their last game before a week without any opponents -- Woodson said he'll leave for his own break from basketball a happy man . . . as long as his team closes with a victory over the last-place Raptors.
Woodson ran a practice session that Carmelo Anthony said included a 11/2-hour film-watching session in which they focused on their loss Sunday to the Los Angeles Clippers, their second in three games.
Anthony said the extended time in front of the television screen made it clear to the players that they would have won if only they hadn't gotten in their own way.
"We're going to bounce back," Anthony said. "I'm sure of it. We were just beating ourselves. Just hustle plays. Not helping one another on the defensive end, not communicating, things that we've been doing, we just had a little slippage."
If anyone's worried about that "slippage" carrying over against the Raptors, no one was saying. Players were optimistic they will return to a more diversified offensive attack that doesn't overly rely on Anthony to score, as has been the case too often recently. "Whenever we move the ball, that's when we're at our best," sixth man J.R. Smith said. "We don't give defenses any chances to focus in on anybody. Anyone can sit there and double- or triple-team [isolations] and stuff like that, so when we use all our options it's tough for teams to guard us."
Notes & quotes: Tyson Chandler participated only in the conditioning portion of practice because of a sore ankle, but Woodson expects the Knicks center to play Wednesday night . . . Anthony on LeBron James' stretch of scoring at least 30 points on 71-percent shooting in his last five games: "What he's doing right now is unbelievable . . . I've never seen anything like it."