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Knicks 120, Magic 113: ‘They weren’t gonna lose every single game the rest of the season’

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Trey Burke stops the tank for a night.

NBA: New York Knicks at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

“We’re still trying to win games. I know a lot of people think otherwise. It’s not in our DNA to go out there and lay down.”

Those words were uttered by an unlikely source—backup point guard Trey Burke—following the Knicks’ 120-113 win over the Orlando Magic. Going forward, the 25-year-old Burke probably isn’t going to get the kind of burn that will be handed to the 21-year-old Emmanuel Mudiay (who started his first game as a Knick) or the 19-year-old Frank Ntilikina. And that is probably right...at least in Frank’s case. Burke has had more chances to prove himself at the NBA level, first with Utah and then in a shorter stint with the Wizards.

But. man, all this dude has done is ball since being called up from the G League. Burke helped pull the Knicks out of an early hole after they gave up an astounding 41 points to a crappy Magic team in the first quarter. Then his mastery of the pick-and-roll helped put the Magic away in the second half. Every time a hapless Magician defender gave him space, Burke would splash another ultra-wet foul-line jumper. When Orlando tried to stick closer, Burke found Kyle O’Quinn for a couple of easy buckets. It was like taking candy from a baby. This is how a pick-and-roll ought to be run!

Burke finished with 26 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists. He even played some stout second-half defense on Orlando’s smaller point guards. Dude tries on defense, even if he’s sometimes overwhelmed by bigger opponents. Trying is a big improvement over what the Knicks often do.

In conclusion, I like Trey Burke.

Notes:

— Yes, Jarrett Jack really did play ZERO minutes. Finally.

— With the benefit of a few hours hindsight, I guess I’m a bit annoyed that Frank Ntilikina didn’t get time as the sole point guard. It was difficult to complain while watching the second half, when Burke was executing his offensive symphony and Frank was shutting down everyone on Magic. The Frenchise forced a jump ball by stuffing Bismack Biyombo, stoned Mario Hezonja big-time on the fast break, and was generally all over the place on defense. But he didn’t get to contribute much on offense, chipping in 7 points and 2 assists. The ball wasn’t in his hands for long. Still, he got 30 minutes of playing time. Baby steps.

— The third leg of the point guard tripod, Emmanuel Mudiay, got the first start of his Knicks career. He was one of the main culprits in the pathetic defensive effort that allowed the Magic to go up big early. He did show some improvement during a second-half surge, posting up tiny dude D.J. Augustin for a couple of impressive buckets. He also executed one of the best alley-oops of the season to Tim Hardaway Jr.

— Speaking of Timmy, he truly symbolized the Knicks’ second-half turnaround. He was abused early and often in the post by the much stronger Jonathon Simmons, but righted the ship in the third quarter, starting with an impressive one-man defensive stand, blocking Simmons on the fast break. Hardaway dropped 23 points and a team high-tying 6 assists as he continues to emerge from that horrific slump.

— Welcome to the Knicks, Troy Williams. The 10-day contract bro got his first minutes of the season to start the fourth quarter—Hornacek was pretty serious about getting the youngsters minutes!—and scored two athletic layups. Athleticism is what we wanna see, Troy!

Enes Kanter notched a double-double (12 points, 12 rebounds, minus-5), but was generally out-played by Kyle O’Quinn (14 points, 8 rebounds, plus-9). I feel like that has usually been the case this season.

And so the eight-game losing streak is history. Like P&T’er HighFlyers28 mused, the guys weren’t gonna lose every single game the rest of the season. But don’t worry, tank fans—the Celtics are coming to town next, and they’ll likely get the Knicks back to their losing ways.