Carmelo Anthony's return to the floor after missing three straight games was a successful one.
Anthony scored 21 points as the New York Knicks defeated the Orlando Magic 106-94 on Wednesday night, completing their first four-game sweep of the Magic since the 1997-98 season. Anthony played 32-and-a-half minutes and shot 7-of-14 from the floor.
J.R. Smith led all scorers with 22, and Tobias Harris and Andrew Nicholson led Orlando with 14. Magic big man Kyle O'Quinn put in a double-double, recording 12 points and 14 rebounds.
New York jumped out to a 15-point lead in the first quarter and fought off numerous runs by Orlando throughout the game before going ahead comfortably at the end of the third. The Knicks were ahead by double-digits for most of the second half until the Magic cut it to nine late in the fourth, but it was too little, too late for Jacque Vaughn's club.
Let's examine how New York was able to get a much-needed win in this one.
1. Three-point shooting
Isn't this always the case with the Knicks?
New York used some very good perimeters hooting to down Orlando, hitting on 15 of their 34 long range attempts. Anthony and Steve Novak both canned three from beyond the arc, and Smith and Pablo Prigioni both knocked down two. Nine different Knicks hit trifectas overall.
It seemed like every time the Magic would make a run, someone would hit a big trey, whether it was Anthony, Novak, or one of the other seven Knicks who connected from downtown.
The three-pointer can get New York in trouble at times, as they tend to rely on it, but when it's working, it's working.
2. Outstanding perimeter defense
Raymond Felton and Prigioni were up in the faces of Orlando's guards right from the get-go, and it clearly had a lasting effects. The Magic's top two scorers, Arron Afflalo and Jameer Nelson, combined to go 3-of-16 for 10 points. It's a miracle Orlando was able to remain as close as they were with their two best offensive players being held in check.
Felton and Prigioni were both unrelenting on the perimeter, with Prigioni applying his usual pressure in the backcourt on inbounds passes.
Nine different Knicks players scored in the first quarter alone. By the end of the game, 10 members of the team had gotten on the board. With all of the injuries this team has suffered, getting a balanced offensive attack like that is absolutely huge. It also helped ease the tension on Anthony, as he didn't have to work so hard to get his team a win.
4. Ball movement
Those 15 three-pointers didn't come out of nowhere, you know. The Knicks' ball movement was extraordinary against Orlando, as they consistently found open shooters all over the floor. The Magic's defense was scrambling all night, and New York made them pay. When the Knicks are moving the rock like that, they are incredibly difficult to beat.