For the third time in as many meetings in 2012/13, the Orlando Magic played the New York Knicks tough through three quarters, only to fall apart in the fourth, enabling the Knicks to pull away for an easy win Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden. The final score was 113-97, but just six points separated the two teams after three periods. Tyson Chandler led six Knicks in double-figure scoring with 21 points on 10-of-11 shooting, while New York made 14 three-pointers to bomb a slow, inattentive Magic defense. New York made as many triples in the fourth quarter (seven) as Orlando did the whole game.
Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick carried Orlando in the first half, victimizing Raymond Felton and the rest of New York's perimeter defenders. Nelson got into the lane almost at will, and if he wasn't able to reach the rim for a score, he at least managed to draw defenders away from other Magic players. The pair combined for 36 of the Magic's 51 first-half points, and Redick made his first seven shots. No other Magic player scored more than six in the first half.
A big reason for Orlando's first-half success against the Knicks was its defense of Carmelo Anthony. The Magic limited the six-time All-Star to nine first-half points and no free-throw attempts in the opening 24 minutes. That the Knicks still managed to score 51 in the half attests to their balance, as well as Orlando's wanting defense against New York's other players. Chandler was particularly effective, as he managed to sneak behind and through the Magic's interior defense for 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting. Felton, for all his defensive shortcomings, sot 5-of-8 for 12 points of his own.
The Knicks rebounded in the second half and began to pull away in the third quarter on the strength of their defense. Felton was flammable as ever, but his teammates picked up the slack by playing with more focus at that end of the floor. The easy layups and draw-and-kick baskets which Orlando used to score 51 in the first half weren't available to them as often after intermission, and without Arron Afflalo or Glen Davis, their two leading scorers on the season, they struggled to generate open shots.
Against a Magine lineup featuring five reserves, the Knicks continued to pull away in the fourth. Pablo Prigioni found Amar'e Stoudemire rolling to the rim for a dunk in a pick-and-roll set, and the rookie followed that play up with a three-pointer from the corner. Free throws from Anthony on the Knicks' next possession gave the hosts an 11-point lead, their first double-digit advantage of the night. Moments later, J.R. Smith, Anthony, and Felton hit triples on consecutive possessions to bump New York's advantage to 15.
Knicks coach Mike Woodson pulled Anthony, Smith, and Chandler with 3:51 to go and his team holding an 18-point lead. Redick responded by scoring six straight points before Steve Novak buried a toe-on-the-line two-pointer to put New York back up by 13 with 3:05 to go. The Magic tried in vain to work their way back into the game by intentionally fouling Knicks swingman Ronnie Brewer, a career 67.9 percent free-throw shooter who entered the game shooting 44.1 percent on freebies in 2012/13. He missed three of his four attempts, but Orlando ultimately called the gambit off after a Nelson turnover gave New York possession with a 12-point edge and 2:14 to go.