Rashard Lewis' 26 points and 5 three-pointers keyed the Orlando Magic's 7th win in their last 8 games, a 114-102 victory over the New York Knicks in a game that featured very little defense on either side. Dwight Howard scored 24 points and Vince Carter added 23 for Orlando, which managed to post its third-best effective field goal shooting game despite connecting on just 34.2% of their three-pointers. The Magic's 29-of-45 showing inside the arc, against the Knicks' soft defense, proved to be the difference. Nate Robinson scored 22 of his 24 points in the 4th period for New York, but his team's inability to get any stops down the stretch doomed its comeback chances. Orlando's won 8 of its last 9 games, and came out of its 4-games-in-5-nights stretch with a respectable 3-1 record.
|Team||Pace||Efficiency||eFG%||FT Rate||OReb%||TO Rate|
|Green denotes a stat better than the team's season average;|
red denotes a stat worse than the team's season average.
Orlando once again got off to a rocky start, mostly on the defensive end. The Knicks ran high pick-and-roll action with Chris Duhon and David Lee, with great success, as Howard showed too hard on Duhon, who repeatedly found Lee at the rim for an easy two points. On their first possession, the Knicks ran this play, and Howard rotated back to Lee too late, fouling him on a layup for a three-point play, which set the tone for how Howard's night would go defensively. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year looked ordinary tonight, defending a pick-and-roll featuring the league's worst offensive point guard and an undersized center, which bodes ill.
But flukey jumpers keyed New York's hot start, jumpers that they would not continue to convert at such a rate the rest of the game. If your team forces Duhon or Lee to take contested 20-footers, it's done its job, even if those shots go in. In contrast, the Knicks' D never tightened up, and Orlando worked the ball inside at will. Howard shot 8-for-9, with few contested looks. Reserve power forward Ryan Anderson compensated for the temporary loss of his outside shooting touch by scooping up offensive rebounds and putting 'em back in. Carter took his share of jumpers off the dribble, but also drove the ball on occasion. It was backup point guard Anthony Johnson, though, who most emphatically exploited the Knicks' poor defense when he drove from the right wing to the basket, unimpeded, for an easy, layup-line-style dunk. The stats show the Knicks yielded 114 points on 91 Magic possessions, and it could have been much more had Carter not struggled at the line (4-of-9) or had the Magic had their usual three-point stroke going.
Their relative cold streak from downtown did not hinder them from taking treys. Orlando's 38 attempts from beyond the arc set a franchise record. It became frustrating at times to watch the Magic cast from long range against such a soft interior defense, especially on a night when Howard seemed to get some lucky bounces inside.
It was also frustrating to watch the Magic allow Duhon to have his finest game of the season. He shot 5-of-6 to set a new season-high in made baskets; his previous best was 4, and he never accomplished that on fewer than 9 shots. He also tallied 9 assists: 5 for layups and 4 for three-pointers. Neither Johnson nor Jason Williams could deny Duhon dribble-penetration, which is something to consider the next time anyone contends that the Magic are a better defensive team with Jameer Nelson out of the lineup.
Overall, it's hard not to come away impressed with Lewis' suddenly "getting it" after a lackluster first few games back from suspension. But the defense, particularly from Howard, needs work. Orlando has two days off until facing the Knicks again on its home floor, and will need to tune-up just a bit in order to avoid a potential embarrassment. After all, only 2 points separated these teams at halftime before Lewis' third-period burst.