GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Mike Woodson doesn't like the way the Knicks are allowing themselves to be pushed around and get "out-toughed," and he said it's about time they showed some resistance.
With the Knicks mired in their first three-game losing streak of the season, Woodson wants to see some of the defensive intensity and toughness the Knicks showed when they started 18-5 and won their first 10 home games.
"We just got to be a little more physical," he said Saturday. "We were that way when we started the season and we've had some slippage in that area. I look at the Boston game and the two Chicago games here at home. They were the tougher team. I'm not going to sugarcoat it. They were tougher."
The Knicks will try to end their skid Sunday afternoon against the Hornets at the Garden in what Carmelo Anthony called a "must win." It's surprising for a veteran team to have one of those in early January. But the Knicks have developed some bad habits in dropping eight of their last 13 games.
They're starting slowly, they're not defending on the perimeter or in the paint, and their offense has become too many isolation plays involving Anthony and J.R. Smith that result in long jumpers.
The Knicks miss Raymond Felton, out with a hand injury, getting them into their offensive sets. But Woodson is stressing defense and playing harder than their opponents. Boston played harder and smarter than the Knicks last Monday and Chicago did the same Friday. Both games were at the Garden, making it even more troubling for Woodson, who had his players watch some telling tape Saturday.
"It was a lot of film work and showing these guys the difference between playing hard and not playing hard," he said.
"We're having a low point right now," Amar'e Stoudemire said. "We got to make sure we maintain character, maintain professionalism and do what we can to win."
Woodson said he looks forward to having some rough practices before the Knicks' next game Thursday in London so he can reinforce how they need to play if they want to continue to stay atop the Atlantic Division and near the top of the Eastern Conference.
"I don't like to say we need to beat up on each other," Woodson said. "But we need to get in the gym where we mix it up a little bit. If it becomes out of control, I'm going to force that issue because I just think we need to get back to what we should be about.
"It ain't about trying to outscore teams, which we've been struggling in that area of late. It's about trying to defend, rebound, and then we figure out the offense once we get the ball."
The Knicks' struggles have them dangerously close to dipping in the conference and division standings. Entering Sunday's action, they are only 11/2 games behind top-seeded Miami in the conference but are only a half-game ahead of the third-place Pacers, two ahead of the Hawks and Nets, and 21/2 ahead of the Bulls.
"I never said at the beginning of the year that winning the division is going to be easy," Woodson said. "I said it was a dogfight, and we're in one. So we got to step up and treat it that way."