The New York Knicks traveled down to Orlando, Florida, to face off against the Orlando Magic before heading west. Luckily, despite some poor play for the first three quarters, the Knicks squeaked by the Magic by 10, 99-89.
The Knicks started off slowly in the first quarter, missing their first five shots and playing lackadaisical defense. Uncharacteristically, the Knicks proved sluggish from three, settling for low quality shots. Conversely, the Magic pushed the ball, found the open man and took advantage of slow defensive rotations. The Knicks were particularly susceptible to the backdoor cut in the first half. The Knicks however, were carried by strong and efficient play from Carmelo Anthony, 8 points (4-6) and their super-sub, JR Smith, who scored 5 confidence-inspiring points off the bench. Ronnie Brewer continued his surprising offensive play, most notably on a beautiful crossover, which led to a left-handed layup. Interestingly, Sheed was the first big off the bench, once again, which is becoming an increasingly less effective substitution each time. The Knicks went into the second quarter leading the Magic by four, 27 to 23.
The Knicks struggled immensely the second quarter. They looked slow and overmatched on both ends of the court, relinquishing their momentum from the end of the first quarter. Once again, the Knicks had little to no interior defense, getting beat with far too much frequency. The Magic went on a 16-4 run, against a smaller Knicks lineup, taking a 41-39 lead. The Knicks’ bench was very underwhelming; Sheed in particular was ineffective, getting beat on defense and missing from three. The Magic rode the point swing to the tune of a 53-49 halftime lead.
The third quarter was all about JR Smith, as he came off the bench, relieving Ronnie Brewer, and shot the lights out. He scored 12 points on a perfect 5/5 shooting, bringing high intensity play to both sides of the court. Again, the defense was subpar, allowing far too many points in the paint.
Jason Kidd really showed his age in the third quarter as JJ Redick beat him inside and out, but luckily for Kidd, he’d have his revenge later. Carmelo provided firepower and scored seemingly at will, except for one particularly woeful sequence in which he was blocked four times under the hoop. The Knicks finished the quarter up by one, 77 to 76, much in part due to JR’s offensive outpouring.
At the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Knicks didn’t look like they had any fight. However, after a 20 second timeout with about five minutes to go, it seemed as though the team realized that they were at risk of losing. The Knicks turned things around, and ended the game on a 20-9 run, holding the Magic to only 13 total fourth quarter points. After a big Carmelo Anthony three pointer with 4:19 to go in the fourth, the Magic started to fall apart on both sides of the ball, and they started to really show their inexperience. Jason Kidd proved to be a game-changer in the fourth, doing all the small things right, while energizing his team. In the end, the Knicks stepped up, and played good team defense to hold onto the lead, and ultimately improve to 5-0.
- As Jonah wrote about earlier, Carmelo continued to play great offensive basketball, drawing three to four defenders, taking the ball hard inside, distributing and knocking down jumpers. His offensive game is freeing up others, and giving them fantastic opportunities to excel on the offensive end of the floor.
- The Knicks were hurt all night by the backdoor cut. I assume this is something that will be addressed in practice this week, but it was painful seeing it over and over.
- Felton looked quick and in control of the offense. He had very nice pick and roll chemistry with Tyson Chandler down the stretch, a few of which were capped off by rim rattlers.
- JR was absolutely amazing off the bench, providing scoring and high intensity play to the relatively anemic Knicks He finished with 21 points, 16 in the second half. He’s now 11-16 this season from beyond the arc.
- Knicks were only 9-24 from three, and it is clear that when the three doesn’t fall, the offense has a tendency to sputter. They have the weapons to run a successful half-court offense, not reliant on the three, so hopefully the team will be able to adjust in future games when the three is not there for them.
- The Knicks were seriously out rebounded (31 to 42), and many of Orlando’s points came on second chance opportunities. They have to get better at this if they want to continue to win games – it seems as though Melo and Chandler are the only players crashing the boards.
- Ronnie Brewer played a very limited role in the second half, due to swelling in his knee, according to the Daily news. Brewer should be available Thursday against the Spurs.
- They once again had single digit turnovers with 9, lowering their season average to 10.8 turnovers a game.
- Melo received his third technical foul of the season and came close to picking up another, as he was really upset with the officials’ call. After the game, Melo said, “me and the referees are building our relationship.”
- Before today, no team has ever held their first five opponents to under 40-points in the second half. The Knicks have.
- With the win, the Knicks have now opened up the season on a five-game win streak, winning all the games by double-digits, which has not been done for 25 years.
The Knicks will return to action on Thursday night, when they face off against the San Antonio Spurs, in Texas.