It’s been a long time since this squad had an “easy win.” Tonight, the Knicks got their best player in Carmelo Anthony back in the lineup, moved the ball around and played solid defense throughout to complete a season sweep of the Orlando Magic. Sure, the Magic are one of the worst teams in the league and were on the end of a back to back, but a win is a win, and the Knicks need plenty of them over the next month if they hope to hold off Brooklyn and win the Atlantic Division. With Knicks legends Patrick Ewing and John Starks in the house tonight, the Knicks are slowly bouncing back from that atrocious West Coast road trip.
EXCELLENT SHOOTING: The Knicks came out strong in shooting 58% in the first quarter (5-8 from downtown). With the bigs from both sides banged up, the Magic went with a three guard lineup while the Knicks inserted Kenyon Martin at center. Melo had 7 points in the opener and moved the ball quickly out of double teams to find guys like JR Smith (22 points) and Chris Copeland (9 points). The Knicks had a nice 10-0 run in the quarter and held a 26-15 lead after one.
THE ONE BAD QUARTER: The Knicks were outscored 31-25 in the second and a lot of that fell on lax defense and get outhustled to rebounds. Still, the three-point shooting remained strong with Melo and Shump draining treys to help keep the Magic on the wrong side of 51-46 score going into halftime.
3RD QUARTER DOMINANCE: The Magic really gave it a go, but the Knicks pushed back every run they attempted. JR Smith was aggressive in going to the rim, which either forced a foul or resulted in a layup. Pablo Prigioni kept up the ball movement (finding Kenyon Martin on a nice pick n’ roll to the basket), and the Knicks ran through the Magic defense to the tune of a 32-19 quarter and 76-60 lead.
STARTERS REST IN 4TH, SECOND UNIT CLOSES THE SHOW: Coach Woodson remained true to his word in trying to lower Carmelo Anthony’s minutes. He did so by only playing him 33 minutes and letting him sit for the fourth. Melo was efficient with his time of the floor in scoring 21 points on 7-14 shooting (3-5 from downtown). Most importantly, he looked healthy — Melo’s lift and first step looked the best they have in weeks. Iman Shumpert had 7 points but sat for the fourth as a precaution due to stiffness in his knee. Let’s pray that’s all it is.
Jason Kidd and JR Smith were two of the more important pieces that ensured the game remained out of reach for the Magic. Kidd’s stat line shows 3 steals, but he caused numerous deflections and had the Magic offense sputtering. JR didn’t go the rim as much in the final 12 minutes, but his jumper became deadly.
There was a few minutes towards the end where the players got lazy and the Magic pulled to within nine (95-86), but a Novak trey that pushed it to 101-88 pretty muched iced the game with under two minutes. Speaking of Novak, he contributed 11 points and nailed some nice momentum threes.
Is there any way we can just play the Magic for the rest of the season? Our next game is “Friday Night Knicks” against the Raptors, who we have the dubious distinction of losing twice to. If the Knicks bring the effort they did tonight, especially when it comes to the shooting, they’ll emerge victorious. But as we already know with this team, that’s a big if.[youtube http://youtu.be/ABK04QhabF4]