Orlando Magic 112, New York Knicks 103

The Orlando Magic ended 2010 on a positive note, pushing their winning streak to five games with a 112-103 victory over the New York Knicks. All eight Magic players to log more than 1:10 of playing time tallied at least 9 points, with Dwight Howard scoring 24 to lead the way for Orlando once again. Hedo Turkoglu added 17, including a critical three-pointer to give the Magic a 7-point lead with 2:32 to play, while Ryan Anderson and J.J. Redick scored 14 apiece off Orlando's revitalized bench.

But the Magic had no answer for Knicks forward Wilson Chandler, who poured in a season-best 29 points on 11-of-19 shooting. And star center Amar'e Stoudemire put in 16 of his game-high 30 points in the fourth period, as New York mounted a strong charge to challenge Orlando, which led for the final 35:36 of tonight's game after Gilbert Arenas opened the second period with a three-point basket.

Magic coach Stan Van Gundy praised his team's energy, particularly in the first half. However, he pointed to a lack thereof in the second half, which helped the Knicks get back into the game. "I liked the way that we finished the game out," he said. Orlando didn't finish the game strong defensively, allowing 32 points on 23 possessions in the final 12 minutes, but did make the proper plays on offense to hold New York at bay. Jason Richardson's three-pointer with 3:41 to play earned Orlando a bit of breathing room after a clear-path foul resulted in a four-point possession for the Knicks.

Team Pace Efficiency eFG% FT Rate OReb% TO Rate
Knicks 95 108.4 51.2% 23.2 24.4 15.8
Magic 94 119.1 52.9% 24.4 41.5 18.1
Green denotes a stat better than the team's season average;
red denotes a stat worse than the team's season average.

Orlando's gameplan was, pretty simply, to get the ball deep inside to Howard against Stoudemire, who's not known for his solid low-post defense. Stoudemire answered the challenge and battled Howard gamely inside, while his Knicks teammates helped by adding double-team coverage. The swarming defense, coupled with Orlando's insistence on feeding Howard the ball, resulted in the Magic's star center shooting 2-of-11 in the first half and committing 3 turnovers. He finished shooting 8-of-19 for his lowest single-game shooting percentage (minimum 19 attempts) since a 6-of-19 outing in November 2006.

That New York, with its limited defensive options at center, rendered Howard inefficient comes as a surprise. But games like tonight illustrate why the Magic are better off now offensively than they were before the trades of two weeks ago. The additions of Turkoglu and Arenas give the Magic two more skilled, willing passers who know their way around an offense. Those two combined for 10 assists tonight, which the combination of Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis would have been unlikely to provide on nights when Howard's less effective. Anderson addressed the improved ball movement the newcomers provide:

"Gilbert, Turk, and the new guys especially do a great job of creating and kicking the ball out and sharing the ball. That's what we can do, we can suck the defense in and we have a lot of open shots and we've been doing a good job of finding the open man."

A subplot tonight? Howard picking up his 12th technical foul of the season, just four away from a league-mandated suspension. OPP will have more on this topic Friday.

Orlando now has a three-day hole in its schedule. It'll practice tomorrow, enjoy New Year's Day off, and have another practice on Sunday before hosting the Golden State Warriors on Monday evening.

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