It has been the opposite for the Knicks’ interim coach, Mike Woodson. The Knicks have won five straight games under him to put themselves back in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race.
While a five-game sample is too small to draw any meaningful conclusions, some changes under Woodson’s leadership bear watching.
One is pace factor, which is an estimate of the number of possessions a team uses per 48 minutes. When D’Antoni resigned on March 14, the Knicks had the second-fastest pace factor in the N.B.A., at 94.2. Under Woodson, the Knicks have slowed things down considerably. They have a pace factor of 90.8, the league’s 12th slowest.
Whether the slower pace has been a significant factor is unclear, but the Knicks have certainly fared much better on offense with Woodson on the bench.
On D’Antoni’s watch, the Knicks were a below-average offensive team, averaging 101.9 points per 100 possessions, the eighth-worst rate in the N.B.A.
In fact, in their first three seasons under D’Antoni, the Knicks finished 17th, 17th and 7th in points per 100 possessions. Those figures are rather surprising given the success D’Antoni had with his high-octane offense in Phoenix.
The Knicks have been far more efficient under Woodson, to the tune of 115.8 points per 100 possessions, the league’s fourth-best rate since D’Antoni’s resignation.
Though Woodson does not have a reputation as an offensive guru, it should be noted that in 2009-10, his last season as the Atlanta Hawks’ coach, his team finished second in the N.B.A. with an average of 111.9 points per 100 possessions.
As for the Knicks’ defense, it has been phenomenal under Woodson.
Contrary to popular belief, the D’Antoni-led Knicks were not a bad defensive team this season, giving up 101.7 points per 100 possessions, the 10-stingiest mark.
Since Woodson’s ascension, the Knicks have been the N.B.A.’s top defensive team, giving up 95.3 points per 100 possessions, the best by a margin of 3 points per 100 possessions.
Although there could be many explanations for the Knicks’ recent success (including the placebo effect), an easy schedule does not appear to be one of them. With D’Antoni, the Knicks’ strength of schedule was about 1 point below average; under Woodson in the last five games, it has been about 1.3 points above average.
No matter the reason, Knicks fans are surely glad to see that this season has once again taken a turn for the better. Given the roller coaster the Knicks have been on in recent months, don’t count on this ride being over just yet.
Justin Kubatko is the creator of Basketball-Reference.com, an online basketball encyclopedia.