The Knicks pulled out a win over the Orlando Magic tonight with a terrific, contribution-filled offensive performance, despite another lackluster defensive effort. Six players scored in double-figures as the Knicks moved into a tie for first place in the Eastern Conference.
The game started off poorly as the Magic’s starting backcourt of Jameer Nelson and J.J. Reddick took turns lighting up the Knicks from all over the court. The Knicks foolishly sent double-teams to Glen Davis (who later left with a foot injury and did not return), resulting in poor rotations and slow close-outs that left Nelson and Reddick open to feast on jumpers. Even when the Knicks stuck to the backcourt tandem, they managed to shake free and connect on shots. Luckily for the Knicks, Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler provided a boost for the Knicks’ equally-as-hot offense. Through the second quarter, the Magic eventually cooled off… to the tune of 55% FG shooting and 46% shooting from downtown.
In the second half, the Knicks took advantage of the short-handed Magic. Reddick and Nelson cooled off while the Knicks, behind some extra offensive punch from Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Chandler, began to wear the Magic down. The defense continued to tighten up (to a degree), while the offense just kept coming. Eventually in the fourth quarter, a series of four straight three-pointers from the Knicks boosted an eight-point lead to an 18-point lead. New York cruised the rest of the way playing mostly their bench bros, and eventually took the win to move to 28-15.
Here’s a look at some individual performances:
Tyson Chandler – 31 minutes, 21 points, 10-11 FG, 7 rebounds, 5 assists,
After a mini-slump over the previous four games, Chandler busted out in the early-going, feasting off the Magic’s weak interior defense and the playmaking of Raymond Felton. Chandler didn’t rebound the ball as well as we’ve been used to this season, nor did he direct traffic and generally tidy up the defense as efficiently as normal, but the Knicks’ defensive dilemmas stemmed far deeper than him. His accuracy around the rim (only one missed attempt and it was a jumper) and some lovely passes made up for it.
Final Grade: A
Carmelo Anthony – 39 minutes, 20 points, 8-17 FG, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 block
Anthony put his name in the Knicks’ record books by notching his 30th consecutive game of scoring 20 or more points. ‘Melo was generally quieter tonight, though his stat line might have been a bit more gaudy if not for some poor shot attempts in transition (two awful pull-up threes come to my mind) and some missed shots from teammates. Regardless, a nice line tonight from Anthony and a big old “Welcome!” into the Knicks’ history.
Final Grade: A-
Raymond Felton – 31 minutes, 15 points, 6-13 FG, 3-6 3FG, 9 assists, 1 steal, 0 TOs
Felton continued to look more comfortable back on the court after his month-long absence. He began the game hot, feeding Chandler for an alley-oop in the pick-and-roll, knocking down a couple of floaters (his form looks different/better, by the way), and canning some hoists from the perimeter. Jameer Nelson embarrassed him on the defensive end quite a bit, and Felton didn’t have any more success trying to switch onto Reddick; the defensive struggles seemed to take him out of his groove a little bit. Either way, much like his teammates above him, a nice stat line, and some lovely offensive orchestrating.
Final Grade: B+
Amar’e Stoudemire – 21 minutes, 14 points, 7-7 FG, 4 rebounds, 2 blocks
Mike Woodson continues to monitor Amar’e Stoudemire’s minutes below what Stoudemire is capable of playing, but with the recent results, who’s to complain? Stoudemire was perfect on the offensive end tonight, and was still robbed of four points – got stripped after splitting a double-team, got called for an offensive foul on a pretty spin, post move. Nary an attempt outside the paint for Amar’e, even when sharing the court with Anthony and Chandler. He looks far more comfortable around the basket and finding openings off the ball. His two indisputable highlights: a jam over Gustavo Ayon off a spicy dish from Papa Prigs and a wild, fade-away, contested jumper off the dribble. His defense is still a bit spacy and poorly-positioned, but it, too, looks improved. I like this productive Amar’e. Now if he can boost those rebounding numbers by actually grabbing the ball and not tipping it in the air.
Final Grade: B
J.R. Smith – 35 minutes, 11 points, 4-8 FG, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block
By far Smith’s most quietly efficient game in quite some time. It seems like eons since he last notched 50% shooting from the field and 100% from downtown, but he did so tonight, and quite silently. Throw in some unnoticed (on my part) productivity on the boards and passing the ball, and suddenly I find myself regretting ignoring Smith’s game as a ho-hum performance.
Pablo Prigioni – 16 minutes, 11 points, 4-7 FG, 3-6 FG, 2 rebounds, 2 assists
Prigioni is building on a solid streak of good play, and had (in my opinion) one of his season’s best performances tonight. Prigioni took and
mostly made open looks when they came to him, shot with confidence, found teammates in all sorts of ways (even if the assists don’t reflect it) and generally played some great minutes spelling Felton.
Final Grade: B
Steve Novak – 23 minutes, 8 points, 3-7 FG, 2-6 3FG, 1 rebound, 1 assist
Leaving Novak on the floor than Stoudemire at this point feels like a misuse of minutes, but as Woodson noted earlier this week, the Knicks need to get Novak involved more. His confidence was clearly low early on, and his shots looked rushed and aimed (a bad combination for a pure shooter), but some garbage time buckets might fix that problem.
Final Grade: C
Iman Shumpert – 22 points, 7 points, 3-7FG, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 5 fouls
Shump got a spanking from the Magic’s backcourt tonight, simply said. Reddick torched him on screens and curls, evaded him off the dribble, and when Shump briefly got switched to Nelson (why we didn’t see more of this, nobody knows…), he was unable to stick to him all that well. Shumpert didn’t take advantage of his open looks off the pick-and-roll and Anthony’s general prowess, which seemed to pile onto his overall frustration. A forgettable night, all in all.
Final Grade: C
Chris Copeland – 8 minutes, 3 points, 1-2 FG
Hard to judge these types of stints, but Copeland hit a garbage time three-pointer after a completely unremarkable second quarter appearance, so that’s good.
Final Grade: C
James White – 10 minutes, 2 points, 1-3 FG, 1 rebound
Why Woodson likes to have a place-holder starter (i.e. White, Kurt Thomas, etc.) is beyond me, but White really doesn’t do much on the court. His jumper was flat and he got burned backdoor a couple of times. Truthfully, I’d rather give his minutes to Ronnie Brewer.
Final Grade: C-
Ronnie Brewer – 4 minutes, 1 point, 1-3 FT, 3 rebounds
Brewer is so low on the Knicks’ depth chart, I’m afraid he won’t even get invited to Mike Woodson’s Super Bowl part, or that Dave Hopla has forgotten about the shooting coaching he needs to be giving Ronnie. Brewer was so great in the early-going, I’d love to see him recapture some of that and boost the Knicks’ rotation a bit, even if the space for him is limited.
Final Grade: C-
Incompletes: Jason Kidd (DNP), Rasheed Wallace (DNP), Marcus Camby (DNP)
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