Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Knicks 108, Magic 86
By Jared Zwerling
WHAT IT MEANS: OK, so the Knicks have been playing defense during their 7-1 stretch under Mike Woodson, but like this, against the third-seeded Orlando Magic?
The Knicks defeated Orlando 108-86 to surpass the .500 mark (26-25). And they did it without Jeremy Lin (sore left knee), Amare Stoudemire (bulging disk) and Jared Jeffries (right knee inflammation).
TURNING POINT: Tuesday, the Magic's day off in New York City. They must have taken advantage of the nice weather and nightlife wonders because they appeared sleepy-eyed through most of the game. Besides Jameer Nelson's strong first quarter in pick-and-rolls (11 points), the Magic didn't show any other interest about being at the Garden on Wednesday night.
DIFFERENCE MAKER: While the Magic came out completely flat, Carmelo Anthony was the total opposite. Every time he touched the ball, he was very aggressive attacking the basket, and he didn't just take it in himself for the finish. In addition to his 25 points, he had a game-high six assists.
When Melo heard on Monday that Stoudemire would be out indefinitely, he said, "I've just got to step it up." He's done just that in the past two games, the first in an 89-80 win over the Bucks on Monday night in which he scored 28 points -- his most since Jan. 20 -- and grabbed 12 rebounds. The best part about his recent performances is that his shooting accuracy is back, which was floating around 40 percent until this week.
THE GOOD: 1. Defensive rotations. In addition to Tyson Chandler playing solid one-on-one defense against Dwight Howard, the defender that occasionally dropped down to help Chandler did a great job of rotating back to his man. That kind of effort and hustle was there all night, and limited the Magic to 9-for-25 long-range shooting (36 percent). They entered the game No. 1 in NBA in 3-pointers made (515), and it's not even close. The Nets are second with 412.
2. Drop-off in turnovers. Entering Wednesday, the Knicks had committed more than 60 turnovers in their past three games. Wednesday night? Only 11. And they had a total of 24 assists. That's more like it!
3. Iman Shumpert's jumpshot. Before the Bucks game Monday night, Shumpert was working with former Knick and current assistant general manager Allan Houston on shooting off screens. After the rookie missed a few in a row, Houston came up to him and said, "Sometimes your shot is too flat. More arc."
Well, since that game, Houston's advice has made a difference. After scoring 11 points on 4-for-8 shooting in the Knicks' 89-80 win over the Bucks, Shumpert had 25 tonight on 10-for-21 shooting, including 4-for-10 from 3-point territory.
BOLD PLAY OF THE GAME: After scoring 10 points on 2-for-5 shooting from downtown through most of the first two periods, Steve Novak swished a 25-foot 3-point shot at the top of the key at the halftime buzzer to put the Knicks up 57-41. Mr. Discount Double Check!
WHAT'S NEXT: Woodson makes his first return to Atlanta as a head coach Friday night at 7:30. Even though the Hawks (30-21) are without All-Star center Al Horford until late April at the earliest (torn left pectoral muscle), they've been playing well, headlined by star swingman Joe Johnson (19.1 points per game). The East's sixth seed has gone 10-6 so far in March by getting an assist on defense. They've been holding opponents to 96.3 points per game (11th best in the month). Who's right in front of them? The Knicks at 96.1.