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Magic 115, Knicks 89: 'Zion.'


NBA: Orlando Magic at New York Knicks Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s start with a song:

Some indy song by some indy band. Doubt you’ve heard of them. But basically the song is about it being the end of the world, and the singer being fine with that.

That’s roughly how I felt during tonight’s unpredictable 115-89 slaughter at the hands of the 5-7 (now 6-7) Orlando Magic. This game sucked. And during some previous years with much higher expectations, this game might have been an early-season playoff-hope-dashing back-breaker. But tonight, it was the end of the world, and I felt fine.

There really was no “good” moment in this game for the Knicks as a team. Right from the jump, the offense came out flat and sloppy (like a dog’s tongue on a hot summer day, but way less cute and way more off-putting).

When the Knicks got open looks, they clanged them. When they took terrible shots, they also clanged those. When they threw passes, they were carefully folded up, put in an envelope, licked, marked with a stamp, and tenderly handed to the Orlando postmaster general for processing. (Telegraphed, but more metaphor-y for effect.)

The Knicks didn’t score for the first five minutes of the game, allowing the Magic to get off to a 10-0 lead. Unfortunately, finding some scoring meant putting in Enes Kanter, which meant getting some sarcastic cheers from the Garden faithful for finally scoring, and in turn giving up twice as many points down the other end.

The Knicks exited the first period down 30-10, and if I weren’t obligated to watch the rest, that’s about where I would’ve flipped to Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives reruns. If you did, I don’t blame you in the slightest.

The Knicks managed to only get outscored 35-30 in the second quarter and they kept things within a point in the second half. But that first quarter basically set the table for a horrible loss. And that’s fine. You know why?

This team isn’t supposed to win. This team is supposed to lose. And tonight, they lost ugly to a bad team. That sucks, but ultimately it’s largely inconsequential for one reason:

“Zion.” (Or RJ. Or Cam.) Thanks, HighFlyers28.

How about some notes?

— Fortunately, on a night with a lot of negatives, the two biggest positives were the Knicks’ two most prized rookies. Mitchell Robinson a block early as well as two early fouls, and sat for a bit. But boy oh boy, when he got rolling on defense in the second half, he couldn’t be stopped. Nine (or eight?) blocks for the kid on the night, breaking the Knicks’ single-game franchise record for a rookie set by Kristaps Porzingis.

Mitch also had another fantastically athletic alley-oop (with a nice feed from Allonzo Trier) at the end of the quarter. Though his four points and four boards won’t jump off the page at you, I thought this was one of Mitch’s more composed games as a Knick so far (especially on defense), and that was good.

Kevin Knox also found a bit of a groove in garbage time, dropping 17 points on 4-11 shooting. Certainly not the most efficient game for Knox, but his aggressiveness was on point, evidenced by his team-leading 10 free throw attempts. The more he continues to get in a groove, the better he and his minutes situation will get as the year goes on. He also had a naaaasty put-back:

Trey Burke kind of found himself again, and started over Frank Ntilikina in the second half. Burke had 10 points and five assists, giving the team a spark to at least look a little competitive on a lost night.

— Conversely, Frank didn’t see the court after the first quarter. Maybe Fizdale was mad at him? Fizdale claims he just lost minutes to Burke and Emmanuel Mudiay because they were playing well, but it seemed weird. Why punish Frank for starting off sucky when the whole team was sucky?

Enes Kanter... Look, I’m getting pretty tired of the whole “Kanter has great box score numbers but he actually sucks” thing. I wish he was just actually good. But the reality is, his play does so much to hurt this team.

In the first quarter, Kanter scored eight of the Knicks’ 10 points. They put him in when they needed some buckets, and they got them. The only problem was, they put Kanter in right around when the Magic had stretched their lead to 10-0, and Orlando then picked Kanter to pieces in the pick and roll for at least 14 of their final 20 points in the quarter. One memorable play was when Kanter had good position on Nikola Vucevic in the post, and didn’t even put a hand up when Vucevic attempted a baby hook (it went in).

Even better, there was a rebound bouncing a little long at one point in the second, and rather than letting Trey Burke just get the board and start the break, Kanter basically body-checked his own teammate to try to add to his rebounding total, losing the ball in the process. Jonathan Simmons on the Magic wound up with the ball, got fouled, and scored a quick two points before the half for the Magic. That play was pretty reflective of Kanter’s contributions tonight.

— The Magic shot 40.5 percent as a team from deep, but I’d swear they were making at least 75 percent of their shots without looking at a box score. They just could not miss (certainly helps to be left open though).

Emmanuel Mudiay finished a layup through contact at roughly the 11:00 mark in the second quarter. I made a note of it just for the record books.

— Felt like an inordinate amount of Knicks were getting their shots blocked from behind tonight. In particular, I thought Trier and Tim Hardaway Jr.’s releases on mid-range pull-ups were a little slow tonight for some reason. Maybe just the SEGABABA getting to them.

— In the OAKAAK department, Jerian Grant canned three 3-pointers tonight.

Terrence Ross murdered the Knicks on his way to 22 points in 22 minutes. He wasn’t even always defended poorly. He just could not miss.

— Not a banner day for Tim Hardaway Jr. Seven points of 2-12 shooting, and some extremely suspect shot choices.

— Likewise, Allonzo Trier didn’t have his best day either. Nine points on 3-8 shooting, and he struggled a little again to deal with some extra attention from opposing defenders. He’ll keep getting better, though.

That’s all I really care to mention about this one. I feel fine. Next.