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Scenes from another lack-of-energy loss

Magic 98, Knicks 94: A career-high 20 points from Deuce McBride wasn’t enough to beat Paolo Banchero, Cole Anthony, and the defensively-minded Magic.

NBA: Orlando Magic at New York Knicks Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

In the Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee, hopes were high that the New York Knicks (23-17) would easily dispose of the Orlando Magic (22-18). The Magic don’t score many points, but they do play tough defense, and the Knicks just couldn’t summon the energy to hold onto an 11-point lead in this one.

New York was ahead by two points after a sluggish first half in which they shot 25% from deep. Their shooting improved in the third frame, but could muster only 16 fourth-quarter points as the Magic, led by Paolo Banchero (20 points) and Cole Anthony (15), came from behind. Overall, Orlando had outscored New York in the paint 52-36, and their bench had outscored New York’s, 49-20. Final score, 98-94.

First Half

Today, with Jalen Brunson sidelined (calf), Miles McBride made his second straight start. Deuce drilled his first two triples today, as usual. Shooting lights-out from deep, he’s made 23 of his last 48 three-point attempts. On defense, he was a menace, too, with busy hands that deflected at least one pass and kept Orlando’s Jalen Suggs honest.

OG Anunoby was active early on both ends, showing some nifty ball-handling at times and swishing two first-half triples.

New York made five straight field goals to mount a seven-point lead with 7:30 to go in the first. It’s a rare game when Julius Randle is the last starter to get on the board. Late in the quarter, he twisted an ankle while fighting for rebound. Randle played through it, but he would sit out the first half of the second quarter.

After starting the game strong, lethargy set in for New York. As has been the case lately, they went on another long 0-fer streak. Despite attaining a 10-point lead, they went over six minutes without a bucket to close out the period. Orlando crept back and tied the game at 24 apiece by the quarter’s close.

Malachi Flynn started the second frame in place of McBride and led a unit featuring Quentin Grimes, Precious Achiuwa, Josh Hart, and Anunoby. Grimes chipped in a couple buckets, but the Magic’s bench outscored their Knicks’ counterparts 23-16 in the first half. Playing in reserve, Wendell Carter, Jr. was responsible for nine points and Orlando went up by as many as six.

Anunoby was the first Knick to score double-digits. Here’s one emphatic bucket:

McBride returned and brought an energy boost, scoring a layup between taller trees on one drive and swishing a floater on another. Other than fouling Caleb Houstan beyond the arc with under 10 seconds remaining in the half, the understudy performed admirably. The Knicks went into intermission up, 52-50.

New York had committed 22 turnovers in Saturday’s win against Memphis. They coughed up only three across today’s first two quarters—a marked improvement! However, give credit to Orlando’s defense, which is the league’s second-best and kept this game close. They hassled the Knicks to poor shooting percentages: 41% from the field, and 5-of-20 (25%) from deep. Randle, Donte DiVincenzo, Flynn, and Hart had combined to shoot 0-of-12 from downtown.

Your first-half shot chart.

Second Half

After the break, New York’s shooting accuracy improved, as they would make eight of their next 15 three-point attempts. Julius Randle began the third quarter with back-to-back three-pointers, DiVincenzo contributed two longballs, and Deuce drilled one trey en route to a ten-point New York lead.

Isaiah Hartenstein committed his fourth foul at the nine-minute mark and was replaced by Achiuwa. The Knicks felt iHart’s absence in the paint, and the Disneys kept hanging around, thanks to surprising play from Chuma Okeke and Markelle Fultz. The latter scored four straight at the rim, then Cole Anthony added two free-throws, and the Magic were within five points to close the quarter, 78-73.

With Julius on the bench, that pest Anthony and his Magic brethren narrowed the differential to three early in the quarter. Never fear, McBride to the rescue! Leading all scorers, he laced his fourth trey of the game, committed a steal, and deflected a fast-break pass to prevent two easy points—and won the tip on a jump ball. Deuce secured a new career-high of 20 points. I squinted and thought I saw Nate Robinson out there.

Despite Deuce’s fiery play and active New York defense, Anthony led Orlando on an 11-1 run and they took a five-point advantage with under two minutes left. It didn’t help that Julius Randle missed two freebies, DiVincenzo missed another, and New York blew multiple rebound opportunities down the stretch. The Knicks poked at the lead, but missed three three-pointers in the final 30 seconds and the curtain fell.

Up Next

Woulda won this one with Jalen Brunson, and that’s no shade at Deuce who played his ass off. Next up: the Houston Rockets come to town on Wednesday. Peace til then.

Your box score.