Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks just want to win basketball games. They apparently needed a coaching change to find the motivation.
Anthony and the Knicks look to improve to 3-0 under interim coach Mike Woodson by sweeping a home-and-home set with the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night in Indianapolis.
New York (20-24) has cruised to consecutive wins since Mike D'Antoni resigned as coach Wednesday, being replaced by Woodson on an interim basis. Just hours after that announcement, the Knicks ended a six-game slide with a 121-79 romp over Portland. Then on Friday, they cruised to a 115-100 victory at over Indiana (25-17) at Madison Square Garden.
"I think with the change, we had to come together as a team and really figure out and ask ourselves what we really want," Anthony said. "Right now, we want to win basketball games, we want to get to them playoffs, and why not start now?"
New York currently holds the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, one-half game ahead of ninth-place Milwaukee.
Part of the recent success has been due to Woodson's insistence that the Knicks play with more urgency, while adding focus on improved defensive play. They've limited opponents to 38.5 percent shooting and have forced 45 turnovers in the two games under the new head coach.
That included shutting down Pacers star Danny Granger, who made 4 of 15 from the field Friday and finished with nine points after angering the Knicks by saying this home-and-home set represented two "very winnable games."
"It was incredible," said New York center Tyson Chandler, who had 16 points and four blocks Friday. "We made it tough for them. We didn't let them breathe and we didn't let up at any time."
While the Knicks seem to have found a spark, questions still swirl around Anthony's commitment and place on the team. He's averaging 18.2 points on 40.5 percent shooting in 12 games since returning from a groin injury, and has totaled 28 points over the last two contests.
The superstar forward failed to quell those concerns Friday, making 4 of 12 shots while missing all three from beyond the arc to finish with 12 points.
Anthony was clutch in the Knicks' last visit to Bankers Life Fieldhouse on April 10, scoring 34 points in a 110-109 victory. He hit a 19-foot jumper with 4.9 seconds left for the go-ahead score before blocking Granger's potential game-winning shot in the final second.
While Anthony is trying to re-establish himself as the Knicks' top threat, Pacers coach Frank Vogel feels his team faces an additional challenge now that New York is playing with renewed vigor.
"We've got to understand what we're facing," Vogel said. "This is an extremely talented team, maybe one of the most talented teams in the NBA, and they're playing with a renewed sense of urgency because of the coaching change like all teams do with coaching changes. So they're a force right now."
Indiana has been a force at home, where it is 13-5 on the season and has won six of its last seven.
Granger is averaging 25.2 points over his last nine home meetings with the Knicks.
He could use some help from Pacers center Roy Hibbert, who is second on the team with 12.5 points per game and the leader with 9.0 rebounds. Hibbert didn't come close to those averages Friday, managing a meager four points and three boards while missing 8 of 10 field-goal attempts.
Hibbert had 19 points and 10 rebounds when the Pacers hosted New York in April.