Denton's Dish: Magic at Knicks (3/28/12)

By John Denton
March 28, 2012

NEW YORK – The microcosm moment on an otherwise miserable night for the Orlando Magic came in Wednesday’s third quarter when seemingly even a positive quickly dissolved into disaster.

After working hard defensively much of the shot clock and to force a New York missed shot, Dwight Howard rebounded the ball and tried throwing an outlet pass to Jameer Nelson to start a fastbreak. New York’s J.R. Smith picked off the pass, chased it down before going out of bounds and buried a 3-pointer that caused the deficit to swell to an unthinkable 34 points.

A Magic team that’s already suffered some unsightly losses this season inexplicably came unglued in the second and third quarters Wednesday at Madison Square Garden, giving up 21 straight points during one stretch and losing 108-86 to the undermanned, but surging Knicks.

``We didn’t get stops, point blank. And we shouldn’t have to come in here after a game like that and talk about effort,’’ Nelson angrily said. ``It’s absurd that we’re talking about that. We get outrebounded by 15 because they were hungrier than us.’’

No one possibly could have seen this one coming from the Magic (32-19), who entered the nationally televised game having won three in a row. And when Orlando stormed to an eight-point lead early on it looked as if it was poised to claim its second victory of the season in Madison Square Garden.

Even in a season where the Magic have scored 56 points (Jan. 23 at Boston) and 59 points (last week against Chicago), Wednesday’s third quarter might go down as the low point. During a 6-minute, 21-second stretch of the third quarter, Orlando missed four shots and turned the ball over six times; the Knicks made nine of 11 shots during that stretch, pushing their lead from 18 to a whopping 39 points.

``What is shocking to me is a team that is playing over .600 (winning percentage) basketball can get absolutely rocked as many times as we have been – Boston, New Orleans, Chicago and tonight. That’s what’s mind-boggling to me,’’ Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. ``It will happen some if you are a bad team. But to be a .600 tam and get crushed like that as many times as we have that’s shocking. … They got us down and we just sort of died.’’

Orlando tried Hedo Turkoglu, Quentin Richardson, Earl Clark and Jason Richardson on Carmelo Anthony with little to no luck. The Knicks’ all-star, who was a game-time decision because of a sore groin muscle, had 25 points and six assists in three quarters of work.

Point guard Jameer Nelson was Orlando’s lone bright spot with 18 points, but 11 of those points came in the game’s first nine minutes. The Magic made 45.6 percent of their shots and hit only nine of 26 3-pointers. Their 19 turnovers resulted in 24 points for the Knicks, 26-25 and winners of eight of the past nine games. Orlando got outrebounded 49-35 and yielded 16 offensive boards.

Back in January, former Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni double-teamed Howard throughout the game, and the Magic made the Knicks pay to the tune of 17 3-pointers. Interim New York coach Mike Woodson played Howard straight up this time and still limited Orlando’s star center to 12 points and five rebounds.

The most shocking statistic of the night: During Howard’s 28 minutes on the floor, the Magic were a minus-31 in scoring.

``This should be frustrating for everybody. We just have to step up and play the right way,’’ said Howard, who made four of seven shots and four of six free throws. ``When we don’t (play the right way), we have games like this.

``It’s the same thing I’ve been telling the guys: Our effort has to be consistent,’’ Howard continued. ``If we want to win a championship every guy has to buy in to playing the right way every night. If we don’t do that we’re going to be sitting at home early.’’

Two months earlier against the Knights, Ryan Anderson had seven 3-pointers and 30 points, but he made just one shot (a 3-pointer) on Wednesday. J.J. Redick and Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis were the Magic’s only other players in double figures in scoring with 15 and 10 points, respectively.

Fumed Redick: ``As a whole we didn’t compete hard enough. It’s the same old story for us.’’

The Magic will be off on Thursday before hosting the defending champion Dallas Mavericks on Friday at the Amway Center. It is the only meeting of the season between the two teams.

Here is a look back at some of the key moments from Wednesday’s nationally televised game from Madison Square Garden:


  • Nelson looked as if he had a career night in the works early on with the way he was shooting the ball and easily getting around veteran guards Baron Davis and Mike Bibby.

    Nelson buried a 3-pointer just seconds into the game and then got into the lane for a runner over Tyson Chandler. Later in the quarter, he drilled another jumper and twice more got to the rim to put the Magic up eight points midway through the first quarter.

    But Nelson, who made five of his first seven shots, was taken out of the game late in the first quarter for his regular rest. By the time he returned, the game had gotten away from the Magic and his fast start disappeared. He made just one of three shots the rest of the half as the Magic fell behind by 16 points in the second quarter.

    ``We have to play our game and play the right way. When we play the right way everybody looks good,’’ Nelson said. ``But when the ball movement gets stagnant we bog down. That’s what happened in that (21-0) run. We were taking too many jump shots and not attacking.’’


  • For a second game in a row, the Magic got off to a torrid start to build a big early lead, only to see it slip away.

    Riding the stellar play of Nelson, the Magic made six of their first nine shots to grab an early seven-point edge. And when Nelson went around Mike Bibby for his 11th points of the first quarter, Orlando had a seemingly comfortable 24-16 edge.

    But the Magic couldn’t hold the lead because they couldn’t find a way to take away the 3-point shooting of Steve Novak, who made three triples and scored 13 first-half points. And by the time that Novak hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of the first half, the Knicks had built a stunning 57-41 lead by intermission.

    ``With the energy, we didn’t bring it and we didn’t compete,’’ Davis said. ``They were moving the ball and playing the right way and we weren’t. Just look at the rebounding. They were smaller than us and they beat us on the boards.’’

    Similarly, the Magic stormed to a 12-point first-quarter lead two nights earlier against Toronto, but allowed the Raptors to tie the game just seconds into the second quarter. But against the woeful Raptors the Magic were able to reestablish the lead and win easily.

  • Already trailing by 16 points at halftime, things just proceeded to get worse in the third quarter for the Magic. The Knicks ended the first half with a 3-pointer from Novak and started the second half with another three from Anthony.

    Van Gundy tried stopping the Knicks momentum’ with a timeout 2 minutes into the second half, but the lumps kept coming in the form of another 9-2 spurt by New York. Another Magic timeout did little to slow down the surging Knicks.

    As has been the case all season, turnovers were the undoing for the Magic. Orlando turned the ball over just six times in the first half, but kicked the ball away seven times in the first nine minutes of the second half. The Magic’s 10 turnovers in the third quarter resulted in 17 New York points.

    The Magic entered the night ranked 25th in the NBA in turnovers, committing 15.4 miscues a game on average.

    ``You could feel it coming. We have to make more of a consistent effort to play hard every night,’’ Magic guard Chris Duhon said. ``We take days off sometimes and think we can always shoot ourselves back into games. To think we’re a championship team we have to have an identity. When we don’t have that identity nights like this happen. We’ve got to compete even on nights when we’re not making shots.’’


  • Early in the season, Redick led the NBA in free throw shooting and was on pace to shoot the second-best percentage in league history.

    But Redick has since fallen off that pace, dropping to fourth in the NBA in free throw shooting at 89.8 percent. He entered Wednesday’s game having made 97 of 108 free throws, but missed a technical foul free throw in the second quarter.

    Redick had a streak of 34 straight made free throws earlier in the season. He failed to reach Darrell Armstrong’s Magic franchise record of 47 straight free throw makes set in 1999. Orlando’s Player Development Coach Mark Price once made 77 free throws in a row in 1993.

  • Another bizarre trend continued Wednesday night regarding the Magic: Three of the Orlando’s most lopsided losses have come on nights when the opponent is missing a star player.

    Orlando scored a franchise-low 56 points and later blew a 27-point lead in January losses against a Boston team without Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo because of injuries. Last week, Orlando mustered just 59 points against a Chicago team that was without MVP Derrick Rose.

    On Wednesday, New York didn’t have point guard sensation Jeremy Lin (sore knee) and Amare Stoudemire (back injury), but didn’t miss a beat against Orlando. Iman Shumpert scored 25 points, Novak hit four of New York’s 12 3-pointers and J.R. Smith chipped in 12 points off the bench.

    ``We didn’t do anything we talked about doing and we played with no energy,’’ Van Gundy said. ``We were very individual at the offensive end and we had little effort. The thing that shows it the most is they were playing small and we got crushed on the boards. That tells me the effort wasn’t there.’’

  • John Denton writes for John has covered the Magic since 1997 and recently authored ``All You Can Be’’ with Magic center Dwight Howard. E-mail John at

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