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After one of the more brutally honest and awkward interviews in recent sports history on Thursday afternoon, involving Orlando Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy and All Star Center Dwight Howard, the last thing their team needed that night was their fifth consecutive loss – let alone another beatdown courtesy of the New York Knicks.
Unfortunately for Orlando, that’s exactly what they got, 96-80; their second uninspired effort against New York in just a little over a week after getting absolutely schooled by them last Wednesday, 108-86.
When speaking with reporters just minutes past noon, Van Gundy openly admitted that he was well aware of Howard’s previous request for the coach’s dismissal to management.
Van Gundy also added immediately after that one of those front office members was the one who had actually informed him of the situation.
Upon hearing Van Gundy’s remarks about how his future with the team would be management’s decision and that he “ain’t worried about that,” Howard made his way next to him, put his arm around his shoulder and replied with a “Yeah, Stan, we’re not worried about that, right?”
Van Gundy agreed with his star big man, reiterated that their main focus at that moment was dealing with the Knicks that night and quickly a few seconds later.
Howard was then asked about the story, but vehemently denied its validity.
“My job security is not what is important right now,” repeated Van Gundy once again following the loss. “What Dwight wants is not what’s important right now. What’s important is we focus on getting better as a team. It’s not like we’ve played five awful games in a row.”
All of the hoopla that took place just hours earlier did not appear to distract the rest of the Magic roster early on in the game, like many feared, as they finished the first quarter down just two, 23-21. In fact, they led throughout most of the opening quarter until the closing minutes.
Howard was a different story, however. He clearly was not emotionally invested, as he went scoreless in the first half and scored just eight points on the night with makes on half of his eight field goal attempts. He posted eight rebounds, as well.
After the Magic tied the game at 23 to start the second quarter, an 8-0 Knicks run put them ahead 31-23 with 9:27 remaining in the half.
New York outscored Orlando 33-23 in the second, and entered the locker room with a comfortable 56-44 lead.
With 3.5 seconds left in the third quarter Howard contributed his first two points of the game with a dunk, but the Knicks were able to extend to a 15 point lead entering the fourth, 76-61.
At that point, everyone in the building knew the Magic weren’t going to make any sort of late comeback that would result in their first victory since March 26 in Toronto.
A J.R. Smith jumper gave the Knicks their biggest lead of the night at 21 with 6:34 left in the contest, 87-66. Smith and rookie Josh Harrelson were the Knicks’ second leading scorers with 15 each. Carmelo Anthony led not only the Knicks, but all scorers with 19 points of his own.
Jason Richardson was Orlando’s high scorer with 15.
The Knicks decided to use the Magic’s strength against them – the three pointer – and it worked out perfectly for them. New York shot 13/25 from beyond the arc, while Orlando, who leads the league in both makes and attempts, went just 9/24.
At an overall clip of 48.7%, the Knicks had a very efficient shooting night. The Magic, though, shot just 41.7% from the field in total.
Howard did not want to get back into what was or wasn’t said to front office officials when asked again after the game.
“I’m not gonna talk about that,” Howard insisted.
What is even more concerning for the Magic right now is the fact that they’ve fallen down to the number six seed in the East at 32-23, after having control of the third seed for the majority of the season.
Orlando will look to get back on track on Saturday night when they visit the Philadelphia 76ers.