Knicks face toughest challenge so far this season in Spurs

Mike Woodson instructs his team during a game

Mike Woodson instructs his team during a game against the Miami Heat. (Nov. 2, 2012) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

SAN ANTONIO -- The Knicks, like most teams, are trying to match the Spurs' level of consistent success. But the Knicks are in the building process and would settle right now for beating the Spurs Thursday night.

It will be the unbeaten Knicks' biggest challenge this young season.

The Spurs (7-1) own the West's best record and have been a model franchise since drafting Tim Duncan in 1997, winning four titles and being near or at the top of their conference every year.

"It'll be a great test for our ballclub," Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. "I'm kind of anxious to see where we are, playing one of the top teams in the league on their floor. It will be interesting to see how we come out of it."

After three straight blowouts to start the season, the Knicks have been tested the last two games. They didn't defend as well or play as hard in the first half Tuesday night and had to sweat out a 10-point victory over the Magic.

Woodson and several players talked after the game about the Knicks taking Orlando lightly. They can't do that against the Spurs or any chance of starting 6-0 would be gone.

"We're definitely going to be in a dogfight -- we know that," Tyson Chandler said. "This has been one of the best teams in decades. We've got to come out ready to play."

Through the first five games, the Knicks have done some of the things that have made the Spurs successful under Gregg Popovich.

The Knicks are allowing the fewest points in the league (87.8 a game) and committing the fewest turnovers (10.8). They're also averaging 103.4 points and winning by an average of 15.6.

But it's been only five games. The Spurs, who beat the Lakers Tuesday on North Babylon native Danny Green's three-pointer with 9.3 seconds left, have a proven system built around Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.

"They know what it takes to win championships and we're trying to get there," Woodson said.

The Knicks have garnered plenty of attention this season because of their start. If they win Thursday night, they'll get even more respect because of the opponent.

Jason Kidd called the Spurs "the blueprint" to follow because of their success. He wasn't ready to call this a statement game, but he said it's an important one.

"When you play the elite, you have no choice but to see where you are," Kidd said. "For us, this is game six. We've got a long journey ahead of us. If you want to be competitive in this league, you have to win on the road. This is a good match for us to see where we're at. We've just got to worry about ourselves and try to get better."

Brewer probable. Ronnie Brewer's surgically repaired left knee was in a compression device because of soreness and swelling, but Woodson said, "he'll play."

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