After winning 14 of their first 20 games, the Orlando Magic (19-12) had doubled their loss total over their last ten games. The Disneys play tough defense; their problem has been shooting. Coming into tonight’s game against the New York Knicks (17-14), Orlando had taken the league’s fewest three-pointers per game and rated near the bottom for long-range accuracy. After their great start to the season, they have been losing momentum, and the Knicks had a fighting chance to win tonight.
Nope. New York suffered through most of the game, due to their own atrocious shooting (7% from downtown for the first half), excessive turnovers (16), too many fouls (30), and losing the rebound battle (49-40). On Wednesday against the Thunder, they dug themselves into such a deep first-quarter hole that they could never recover. The Knicks did the same tonight, but in the second period this time.
A 38/12 double-double performance from Julius Randle and a late game rally were unsuccessful for our heroes. But at least Thibs experimented with a promising small ball line-up for the last seven minutes of the game. Final score, 117-108. Went sorta like this.
This was a physical game from the jump. The Magic had no difficulty producing in the paint, where they scored 16 of their first 19 points. Meanwhile, the Knicks missed five of their first six shots and each of their four three-point attempts. Continuing the sloppy play of Wednesday’s game in Oklahoma City, they coughed up the ball four times in the first frame.
The Magic’s lead hit nine points before Julius Randle stepped up and racked ‘em up. He scored 16 first-quarter points on 7-of-10 shooting. Here’s one bucket.
Consistent with Thibodeau’s usual substitution pattern, Immanuel Quickley relieved Donte DiVincenzo with four and a half minutes to go. As the quarter reached its final minute, IQ swished a three for the Knicks’ first lead since the opening. New York would finish the period up 29-26.
Last year’s Rookie of the Year Paolo Banchero made only one of eight three-point attempts in Wedneday’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers. Tonight he drilled his first attempt, which occurred during an 20-4 run that put Orlando up by 11 with under four minutes remaining.
Despite logging 24 points in Oklahoma City on Wednesday, Jalen Brunson didn’t play a particularly sharp game against the Thunder. His sub-Brunson-standard play continued tonight. Singling out Jalen seems unfair, however, since the whole team went seven minutes without a bucket during the second period.
After a 15-point quarter that distinctly resembled a swirled pile of steamy dog turds, the Bockers were lucky to be behind, 55-44.
How bad was it? The Knicks had shot 1-of-14 from deep (7%) and 39.5% from the floor. (The Magic: 3-of-13 from deep, 51% FG.) Despite being a below-average rebounding team, Orlando won the glass, 24-19. And they won the points in the paint, too, 36-26.
New York had 10 first-half turnovers in Wednesday’s slopfest; they repeated that by intermission tonight. Randle led the Knicks with 19 points and seven rebounds. Franz Wagner had 15 points for the Magic. Here’s your halftime shot-chart . . . count the red Xs:
Did I mention how badly Banchero shot the three-ball on Wednesday? He drilled his second triple of the game early in the second half to give Orlando its biggest lead yet, and then it just got worse.
The Knicks went 1-for-18 from deep before RJ Barrett canned his first triple midway through Q3. Jalen Brunson didn’t make his second field goal until past midway and Anthony Black was really giving him a hard time. Fortunately, Brunson finally began to generate some daylight, Randle kept motorin’, and the game remained within reach after three frames, 86-74.
In the fourth period, aggressive play by RJ Barrett driving the lane resulted in an assist and a three-point play, and a Quentin Grimes’ three-pointer cut the lead to 10, but Franz Wagner kept lacerating them on the other end. He finished with 32 points and nine rebounds, and responded loudly whenever the Knicks came knocking.
Advocates of small ball, rejoice. With Isaiah Hartenstein and Taj Gibson both in foul trouble, Thibs switched Julius Randle to center with about eight minutes on the clock. It wasn’t exactly the death squad, but on the floor for New York were Brunson, Quickley, Josh Hart, Barrett, and Julius. They outscored the Magic 14-9 and cut the deficit to six points.
After Wednesday’s game, New York had complained publicly about missed foul calls. Perhaps tonight was a revenge game for the referees. Brunson tried to take over the contest and got hammered repeatedly in the lane, yet the refs swallowed their whistles. Meanwhile, the Knicks got dinged by the umps at the worst possible times, and after another Randle foul, the lead was 10 points again with under three remaining. In the end, New York was called for 30 fouls; Magic, 20.
Over the final minutes, the Knicks couldn’t get a stop, the two teams traded buckets, and New York ultimately lost by nine. Blah.
After this rock fight, the Knicks will fly to Indiana and play against the speedy Pacers tomorrow night. Sound like fun. Safe travels, Knickerbockers.
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