During a recent three-game winning streak the New York Knicks bench production has been among the NBA’s best. Wednesday night at the Amway Center in Orlando, New York’s bench faltered and the starters weren’t much better as the Magic pulled away for a 107-89 win. With the loss, the Knicks (14-16) failed to reach the .500 mark and blew a chance to move into fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
“We didn’t have our normal awareness,’’ coach TomThibodeau said. “That’s been one of our strong suits of the team.”
This contest was the prototypical trap game. First of all, the Knicks came in riding high, searching for their fourth straight victory. Orlando (11-18) came in losers of 12 of their last 16 and were missing several key players. Secondly, New York is the best defensive team in the league and were coming off a season-best 17 three-pointer effort. The Magic are the worst team in the NBA from behind the arc. It was the perfect set up.
At first everything appeared to be right on schedule. Behind another hot start by Randle the Knicks led 32-21 late in the first quarter. When the second unit entered the game there was every reason to believe things would unfold as planned. Derrick Rose, Immanuel Quickley and company would perform the way they typically do and the Knicks would have a comfortable lead at the half.
Consequently, it just wasn’t meant to transpire that easily. The normally stellar New York bench couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn, didn’t take care of the ball and couldn’t contain an unexpected Orlando 3-point barrage. The Magic outscored the Knicks 30-24 in the second quarter. However, New York still clung to a 56-53 lead at the break.
In the second half things didn’t get any better. Orlando outscored the Knicks 30-14 in the third quarter to take an 83-70 lead heading to the fourth. In the final frame the Magic continued to exhibit confidence. Meanwhile the Knicks stuggles escalated. The Orlando advantage swelled to 89-72 on a Terrence Ross trey. New York pulled within 91-81 with 5:53 to go. The Magic responded by closing out the contest with an 18-8 spurt to secure the “W.”
The most telling stat was three-point shooting. New York was 7-for-27 for a ghastly 25.9%. Orlando shot 15-for-34 for 47.1%. The Knicks connected on just 37.9% of their shots from the field. Rose and Quickley were a combined 2-for-21.
Meanwhile, Ross was lighting it up for the Magic. He poured in a season-high 30 points for Orlando. Evan Fournier added 19 points. Nikola Vucevic (16) and Dwayne Bacon (15) also reached double-digits.
Randle finished with 25 points for the Knicks, but couldn’t find much help. RJ Barrett chipped in 15 points despite sitting out much of the fourth. Elfrid Payton scored 13, even with not playing in the final quarter. Their absence baffled many Knicks followers given the ineptness of Rose and Quickley.
“We were in such a hole, I was trying to find a way out, I wanted to see where it would go once it got to 10,” Thibodeau explained.
With Saturday’s game against San Antonio postponed due to COVDI-19 issues for the Spurs, the Knicks have a few days to practice and regroup. Next up, the Minnesota Timberwolves visit the Garden on Sunday. A very winnable game against a team that had lost six of their last seven. Then again, so was the Orlando game. Tip off Sunday evening is at 7 p.m.
(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)