Orlando Magic vs. New York Knicks: Postgame Grades and Analysis for NYC
Carmelo Anthony returned after missing three games due to a sore knee. He must have been drinking a lot of chocalate milk during the rest, because it did his body good. Melo scored 14 points in the first half and finished with 21. J.R. Smith led all scorers with 22 points.
The Knicks opened up a 15-point lead in the first quarter on the back of some hot shooting, but the Magic reeled off a 13-2 run to bring themselves within reach. After New York's defense held Orlando to 15 points in the first quarter, the Magic broke out for 31 in the second, including eight points and four assists from Beno Udrih.
He ended the night as one of three Orlando bench players to score in double-digits. Some rookie named Kyle O'Quinn finished with a dozen points and 14 boards for the game's only double-double.
After leading by only five points at halftime, the Knicks stormed out of the locker room and dominated the second half. They finished the third quarter with an 18-point advantage and coasted through the fourth quarter to victory.
If it weren't for the Knicks' hot three-point shooting, the complexion of the game might have been entirely different. Through three quarters, New York was 13-of-24 from beyond the arc. Still, this was an emphatic victory in which the Knicks bent but never broke. Orlando threatened to make it a close game at several points, but New York maintained a comfy lead for much of the game.
At 18-51 now, only the 15-win Charlotte Bobcats have a worse record. Orlando struggles mightily on defense, allowing 100.9 points per game and the fifth-most points per 100 possessions in the NBA (per ESPN). The Magic have an inexperienced roster—eight players have played less than two seasons in the NBA. They also have the league's youngest coach in Jacque Vaughn, who picked up both his first and second career technical fouls as a head coach in Orlando's Tuesday-night loss to the Indiana Pacers.
New York is now 40-26, clinging to third place in the East and a one-game advantage in the Atlantic Division over the Brooklyn Nets. The Knicks will need to finish ahead of Brooklyn, as the Nets own the tiebreaker with a much better division record (9-4 to 6-6).
Having built the smallest winning streak possible, New York will need to build on this momentum down the stretch and hope for Tyson Chandler's speedy recovery.
Now, let's take out the red pen and grade this game from front to back.
Pablo Prigioni, PG: B
Prigioni saw his second straight start at the point, sliding Raymond Felton over to the 2. The Argentine put in another strong game as the Knicks again picked up a W.
He nailed two triples, which were his only field-goal attempts, and dished out five assists in his 20 minutes of work. He also hauled in four surprising rebounds and brought his active hands on the defensive end.
Though his play and stat line won't draw too much attention, Prigioni looks more or less like a South American Jason Kidd. He offers high-IQ basketball with 100 percent effort, and he's surprised everyone by working his way into the starting rotation at point guard.
It's certainly working so far.
Raymond Felton, SG: B
Felton played a strong game even though he only scored seven points. He dished four assists and committed zero turnovers, finishing up with a plus-21 rating (tied with Carmelo for the game high).
For the most part, Felton played solid defense, although Beno Udrih came off the bench and gave the Knicks fits in the second quarter.
Felton played well in his second consecutive start at shooting guard, as Mike Woodson continues to shuffle anyone and everyone at the 1 through the 3.
Iman Shumpert, SF: B
Shumpert played a strong first half, scoring seven points and dishing three assists.
But he tweaked his surgically repaired left knee on the first half's final play.
While Shumpert was not ruled out for the remainder of the game by the medical staff, MSG cameras showed him on the bench with a large wrap around his knee and seated directly beside Kurt Thomas, who was sporting a walking boot on his fractured right foot.
Coach Woodson stated in his postgame interview on MSG that it was only a precautionary measure.
Shumpert stated to reporters and MSG cameras that he felt a "pop" in his knee, and the last time he felt that, he missed eight months.
The Knicks medical staff should exercise caution with their young phenom, and they would have to be insane not to run a full battery of tests on Shumpert's knee ASAP.
Carmelo Anthony, PF: A
The three-game layoff certainly appears to have helped Anthony regain his boost. He poured in 14 points through two quarters on an efficient 5-of-9 shooting. He also tallied four boards, a block and a steal.
Melo finished with 21 points and eight rebounds, showing good physicality and athleticism in the paint. While Orlando's frontcourt isn't very imposing, Anthony looked comfortable in the paint and showed no signs of knee problems.
That level of energy from Carmelo should allow many Knick fans to breathe a small sigh of relief. New York desperately needs Anthony at 100 percent to protect their slim division lead.
Kenyon Martin, C: B+
With Tyson Chandler sitting out due to a bulging disc in his neck, and Kurt Thomas in a protective boot after tests revealed a stress fracture in his foot, New York turned to K-Mart as their starting big man.
Orlando was also without their starting center, as Nikola Vučević sat out due to the flu. That helped.
And Martin again played with tremendous energy and physicality. K-Mart posted offensive numbers that mirror the efficiency of a Tyson Chandler: 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the field.
Martin also threw down a couple of alley-oops that looked eerily similar to No. 6's ferocious slams.
Of course, Martin racked up the personal fouls again in this contest, but he stopped short of fouling out. With Thomas out two to four weeks, Martin will have to moderate that while the Knicks are yet again shallow at the 5.
J.R. Smith, SG: A
J.R. Smith finally abandoned the perimeter jumper as his first option in this one. Against an undersized Orlando lineup, Smith took it to the bucket again and again.
His merciless assault on the paint threw Orlando's defense into disarray and opened up opportunities all over the floor. While he did knock down a few long jump shots, Smith finished with a very efficient night from the field precisely because he was aggressive and went to the hoop.
After strong scoring from Smith and Carmelo Anthony helped the Knicks close the third quarter up by 18, Smith nailed a jumper to open the fourth for a 20-point lead.
Smith led all scorers with 22 points coming on 8-of-16 shooting. He also pulled down seven boards and dished two assists.
J.R. added an exclamation point on the victory with a high-flying blocked shot of Kyle O'Quinn in the final minute. Smith went clattering to the court and fortunately wasn't injured, but his effort and enthusiasm definitely made a statement.
Rest of Bench
Rest of Bench: B+
After his first attempt rattled out, Steve Novak drained his second shot of the game. He also pulled off a nice pump fake and sidestep, draining the two-pointer off one dribble. That's his second move if he's not wide open for a trey.
Novak finished with a trio of triples for 11 points to go along with his three rebounds. Getting him confident in his shot down the stretch will be important for New York's offense.
Chris Copeland started the Knicks' previous game and played 31 minutes in a crucial win over the Utah Jazz. His 14 points and six boards in Utah weren't enough to keep him in the starting lineup against Orlando, however, as Mike Woodson still views Cope's defense as somewhat of a liability.
Copeland again proved to be an offensive force, posting up multiple times against Orlando's small lineup. He scored nine points in his 20 minutes, but he also fouled out.
Jason Kidd nailed his first three-point attempt, which is always a good omen. Kidd played a vintage game, with five points, five dimes and three steals. He also added numerous deflections on defense and repeatedly seemed to be in the right place at the right time.
Marcus Camby saw seven minutes in the first half, but only notched a pair of boards and an assist.
James White came on midway through the fourth quarter and immediately sneaked behind the Magic D for a layup. White took flight at the two-minute mark, throwing down a sweet rock-me-baby dunk on a breakaway with an assist from Kidd. He ended with seven points in six minutes.
It has to be relief to the New York fanbase to see their team return to their winning ways, even if it is just a two-game streak. The Knicks will have to focus down the stretch, especially taking care of their home games and division opponents.
In a quirk of scheduling, the Knicks go north of the border to play the Toronto Raptors on Friday, only to return to New York and face Toronto again on Saturday. Things get tougher during the week, as they play at the Boston Celtics and host the Memphis Grizzlies on back-to-back evenings.