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If the Orlando Magic (32-19) came to Wednesday night’s game with the mentality that the New York Knicks (26-25) wouldn’t come to play due to the absence of both forward Amare Stoudemire and point guard Jeremy Lin from their lineup, then their 108-86 defeat might have been well deserved.
Despite sporting the third best record in the Eastern Conference, and also fifth in the league, this was not the first or even second time this season that the Magic were the victims of an old-fashioned beatdown where they were simply just run out of the gym. New Orleans, Boston, and Chicago have also embarrassed Orlando this season, and they looked nothing like a team who had won three straight entering the contest.
“We got behind, they hit a lot of shots, they got us down,” said Magic coach Stan Van Gundy. “And then we just sort of died. We didn’t do anything we had talked about doing. We played with no energy. We were very individual at the offensive end. And not much effort.”
Lin and Stoudemire were both inactive for a second consecutive game with a sore left knee and bulging back disk, respectively. While Lin’s injury has been classified as minor, it was announced earlier in the day that Stoudemire would miss the next two to four weeks, with surgery unnecessary.
Carmelo Anthony knew he would have to step up for New York, even though he was dealing with a minor groin injury of his own. He had no problem doing so, scoring a game high 25 points on 9/15 shooting. Anthony had a solid all-around game, adding six rebounds and five assists as well.
With 25 of his own, rookie teammate Iman Shumpert equaled Anthony’s point outpoint and also recorded a new career high in doing so. “Right now, with the coaching change, we’ve been playing extremely well,” said Anthony. “Guys seem to be responding pretty well. We’ve been really locked in on our mission right now.”
A thrashing by the Knicks did not seem likely early on, as Magic point guard Jameer Nelson’s 11 first quarter points, which led both sides, helped his team attain a 29-25 lead going into the second.
Nelson went 7/14 overall and was the Magic’s top scorer with 17. Steve Novak’s jumper with 9:41 remaining in the second would conclude a 6-0 Knicks run to open the second, giving them their first lead of the night at 31-29. After Orlando tied the game with a bucket on the next possession, New York went on a 7-0 run, establishing a 47-38 lead thanks to a lay-in by Anthony at the 2:26 mark.
Two free throws from Magic center Dwight Howard ended the run at 12-0 with 38.5 seconds remaining in the half, but a Novak three at the buzzer – his third of the half – gave the Knicks a commanding 57-41 lead entering the locker room. Howard was essentially a non-factor in the ball game, scoring 12 points and bringing down just five boards.
Novak made four of eight three’s in almost 23 and a half minutes of play, putting up 16 points. They may lead the league in both three pointers attempted and made, but the Magic were shut down in this one, going 9/26 from behind the arc. After making eight three’s in Orlando’s last game, forward Ryan Anderson hit just one in this one, scoring a mere three points.
When everyone thought that the Knicks could not outdo a 32-12 second quarter, they did. It started with 8:45 shown on the third quarter clock. The Knicks went ahead 69-49 on a floater by backup point guard Baron Davis. Between that time and Shumpert’s jumper with 2:58 left they ripped off 21 unanswered.
Shell-shocked, the Magic found themselves trailing 90-59 before taking the floor for the final quarter. They were able to cut the deficit down to 15 with 2:10 left to play, but the Knicks held on easily, 108-86. Orlando shot just 44.8% from the field, and allowed New York to shoot 50.9%.
“It should be frustrating for everybody,” said Howard. “We just have to step up and play the right way, and when we don’t, we have games like this.”