New York entered Wednesday’s matchup in Orlando with a chance to get back to .500 while extending its win streak to four, but by the end of the third quarter the Knicks’ magic had run out, and in the final period the Magic ran away with the victory.
The contest had all the makings of a letdown game from the start. The Knicks were riding high after Julius Randle exploded for 44 points against the Atlanta Hawks on Monday, lifting New York to a third straight victory and cementing his place as an All-Star candidate. But they were also playing their fourth game in six days. Still, it was starting to feel like the Knicks were, in some sort of official capacity, no longer a laughing stock. People were clamoring to climb aboard the bandwagon. Bloggers were begging retailers to sell them Immanuel Quickley merchandise.
Nice to see RJ and Obi represented, but no Quickley? No Randle?? Disgraceful. pic.twitter.com/Clp6X268Im— BennyBuckets (@BenjaminBucket4) February 14, 2021
Heck, Woj even deleted his rudderless tweet from after David Fizdale was fired last year.
Unfortunately, despite a hot start, a letdown game it would ultimately be. RJ Barrett, who has been inconsistent since the start of February, went right to work, niftily notching the first bucket of the game. Evan Fournier immediately followed with a three, Randle countered by sinking a 15-foot bank shot, and we were off to the races.
Underway in Orlando! Let's go pic.twitter.com/j660HHHnnI— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) February 18, 2021
The Knicks were en fuego at first, hitting seven of eight to start the evening, but the Magic were keeping pace. The teams traded leads through the first, and Walt Clyde Frazier was delightedly making puns about how Orlando forward Dwayne Bacon was “cooking” and “sizzling.”
As the quarter wore on, the Knicks began to increase their lead, thanks to Randle, who was actually cooking and sizzling; he had 13 points on 5-6 from the field and 3-3 from deep in the first.
Slight work.— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) February 18, 2021
13 points on 5-6 from the field from Jules in the 1st quarter. pic.twitter.com/Xc1JqaLpUR
Immanuel Quickley checked into the game with a couple of minutes to go in the first and promptly drew a foul after pump faking and sneakily initiating contact. He’s becoming the king of duping dudes into fouling him. Quickley hit all four of his free throws in the first, and when the buzzer sounded on the period, the Knicks were up 32-23.
Without Randle on the floor, the Knicks sputtered to start the second. Quickley hit a couple more free throws, but otherwise the second unit looked a little sloppy. Soon, Orlando had sliced an 11-point lead to two. Then they were winning.
Down 39-38, Tom Thibodeau called timeout and reinserted his starters, who served to steady the stumbling Knicks. Elfrid Payton forced his way inside for a few buckets and the teams traded hoops. The Knicks clung to a 56-53 lead at halftime.
In the first half, the Knicks shot 21-40 (52.5%) from the field and were 3-8 (37.5%) from deep, totaling 56 points. Then the wheels fell off the car; in the third, the Knicks shot 6-20 (30%) and 1-9 from three (11.1%). It didn’t start so bad, with Payton continuing his exploits in the early goings.
But the Knicks couldn’t pull away, and seemingly every shot started to come up short. Although they kept it close for much of the period, the momentum was clearly shifting. Ultimately, Randle, Barrett and Payton are the only Knicks who scored in the third, and by the latter half of the quarter Orlando was up double digits. Six Magic got on the board in the period, five of which scored at least five points. The Magic also hit 5 of 11 threes in the third, and took an 83-70 lead into the final quarter.
The Knicks were lifeless in the fourth. Their legs were jelly, and their shots were shorter than Muggsy Bogues. Between the late third and first few minutes of the fourth, the Knicks missed 15 straight shots. Alec Burks provided a slight spark of false hope late in the night with two straight threes to cut a 17-point lead to 11, but the Magic regained their composure and succeeded in keeping the Knicks at arm’s length for the remainder of the night.
In the end, the Knicks went out with a whimper, getting outscored by 21 in the second half. The loss drops them to 14-16. As of the writing of this sentence, the Knicks would be the sixth seed in the East if the season ended today, so look on the bright side and whatnot.
> Randle was super, but not superhuman. He finished with 25 points (11-19 shooting), 7 rebounds and 3 assists, plus 5 turnovers. Too many turnovers.
> Quickley struggled, shooting 1-12. His only made field goal was a garbage time dunk. Still, IQ hit each of his seven free throws to total 9 points. He also had 2 boards, 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 block, and zero turnovers. He won’t shoot 1-12 very often, folks.
> Noel continues to do a rock solid job standing in for Mitchell Robinson. He had 6 points and 9 rebounds on Wednesday. There’s definitely a dropoff though with Taj Gibson needing to play significant backup minutes as opposed to being a third available big man.
> Everyone’s favorite bench backcourt, IQ and Derrick Rose, shot a combined 2-22 from the field. That’s 9%.
Look, this one was bad. It was bad because at first it felt like the Knicks would win, but then they gradually started playing like crap and suddenly it was obvious that they had no chance. Real Clydes Wear Plaid put it perfectly: “Well that was awful.”
But don’t despair. The Knicks have time to rest, as they don’t play again until Sunday against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Their legs ought to be so fresh by then.