The Knicks, short-handed and exhausted, lost their fourth straight against the Magic

The New York Knicks (33-22) dropped their fourth game in a row to the Orlando Magic (30-25) by a final score of 100-118. Despite Jalen Brunson doing everything in his power to try and keep the team in the contest, their thin rotation and lack of defense proved to be their downfall against a mostly healthy Magic squad looking to win at home.

The Knicks entered the game shorthanded once again, this time losing Bojan Bogdanovic and Donte DiVincenzo to calf soreness and hamstring soreness, respectively, in their last contest before the All-Star break. Alec Burks, recently acquired along with Bogdanovic, slid into the starting backcourt with DiVincenzo missing the game.

The game opened with an immediate double team on Brunson and turnover, leading to a quick two points for the Magic. But, Precious Achiuwa responded immediately with a tough layup of his own to get New York’s scoring started. It became a fairly slow paced back and forth between the two clubs in the first, with Brunson managing to find some separation to score most of the Knicks’ points and with Orlando easily scoring in the paint against a depleted New York front court. By the halfway point of the period, Orlando just looked like free form jazz on offense, trying anything and it all sounding beautiful. The Knicks, however, were strictly relying on Brunson to score, not a winning formula with such a depleted roster. Burks finally scored to tie things up after the media timeout, a much-needed score that did not come from Brunson. Josh Hart joined the party shortly after, scoring on back to back possessions in transition. New York’s defense was tightening up, and thanks to some misses from Orlando, the Knicks managed a solid lead for most of the quarter. Deuce McBride contributed to some scoring to take the weight off Brunson’s shoulders to finish the first as well, helping to finish up with a nine point lead headed into the second frame.

Burks hit a three pointer, a welcome sight reminiscent of what worked for him with the Pistons this season, to begin the scoring for New York in the second. The Knicks needed to find some evenly distributed scoring opportunities while Brunson got rest to start the quarter, but they were struggling to do so. The Magic quickly made it a two point game through just three minutes of second quarter action. The defense was also starting to sputter for New York as Orlando was taking advantage of having no real shot blockers against them in the paint. Brunson was forced to get back in to manage the game, quickly finding a streaking Achiuwa who shot a dime to Sims for an easy dunk. Orlando started to get on another tear, but New York was sticking with them thanks to some looks generated by Brunson’s double and triple-teams. McBride was once again the Knicks’ best second option to close the quarter and the half, which helped to stop the bleeding on the other end of the floor as Banchero was hitting everything from deep for the Magic. The Knicks were down ten through the first two, with Brunson and McBride seemingly the only Knicks players who showed up and with the Magic shooting 71 percent from the field in those two quarters.

A three pointer from Caleb Houstan opened things up for the Magic in the third, but Brunson responded with a three of his own to get the lead back down to ten. After a long winded challenge from head coach Tom Thibodeau on an out of bounds call made by the referees was successful, the Knicks were not able to take advantage of getting the ball back. The score ballooned to a 14 point lead for the Magic, with no defense in sight and with Brunson once again having to do it all by himself. Banchero and Brunson were duking it out, but Orlando could rely on that with such a large lead. The Knicks had to string together stops to make Brunson’s sensational play even matter. Back and forth the teams went, and you would not have been able to tell that it was the Magic who had been coming off a game just last night, with them pushing the pace and scoring with ease and as the Knicks just did not have an answer for them outside of Brunson’s heroics in the quarter. New York got to within 10 with about three minutes to go thanks to some much needed paint presence from Sims and Achiuwa on offense, and as the Knicks were playing with much more intensity on defense that was rattling the Magic enough to generate some turnovers. Unfortunately, things started slipping back to what they looked like to start the second, with Orlando blowing their lead back up to 12 to end the third to due to some poor shotclock management and no one else stepping up alongside Brunson.

Brunson opened the fourth on the court with the Knicks, but that did not stop the Magic from continuing to stomp on New York’s efforts in expanding their lead. As Orlando crept closer to scoring 100 and as the Knicks were struggling to get to just 85 points, the game definitely started to feel too out of reach for them to crawl back into. There were some good minutes for Sims and Jacob Toppin in the period, but with Brunson finally get rest with about eight minutes to go, New York had basically lost their offense. It was a 21 point lead with seven to go, and the contest shaped up to be the Knicks’ fourth loss in a row. It capped off a nightmare-ish end to the first half of the year for New York, and one that fans likely all knew would never had happened had the team been even partially healthy.

Brunson was the game’s highest scorer for the Knicks, finishing up with 33 points, six assists, two steals, and one rebound. Achiuwa had 23 points along with 14 rebounds, and five assists. Burks had 13 points and three boards, while Sims had eight points, seven rebounds, an assist, and a steal. Hart had four points, three boards, two assists, and two steals.

Toppin had 11 points and four rebounds off the bench, while McBride finished with eight points, two steals, and one assist. Taj Gibson had one rebound before leaving the game with an injury.

Finally, the Knicks will have time to rest as the All-Star break begins for them, and with Brunson gearing up for his first All-Star Game appearance and his first participation in the 3-Point Contest. They play again next Thursday, Feb. 22, where they face off with the Philadelphia 76ers on the road.