New York Knicks, without Carmelo Anthony, dump Orlando Magic

By Philip Rossman-Reich, The Sports Xchange  |  March 7, 2017 at 6:29 AM
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March 7 (UPI) -- ORLANDO, Fla. - New York Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek gave his team a simple directive between the third and fourth quarters of Monday night's game against the Orlando Magic. After the Knicks gave up 38 points in the third quarter and trailed by seven points, he needed his team to play defense, quite simply. That has not always been the Knicks' strong suit this season.

To get a win and maintain their dying playoff hopes they had to prevent another offensive outburst. And they had to do it shorthanded with Carmelo Anthony on the sideline with a sore left knee and Kristaps Porzingis in foul trouble.

New York would have to turn to some unfamiliar faces and unlikely heroes to get a victory.

Entering the game late in the third quarter for the first time, Kyle O'Quinn became a Knicks hero on the offensive glass against the smaller Magic. Chasson Randle, still getting his feet wet in New York, put on a strong performance at point guard to guide the Knicks back into the game. Veterans Lance Thomas and Courtney Lee sealed the deal, beating the Magic off the dribble.

In all, New York started the fourth quarter on a 22-4 run to take a double-digit lead after trailing for almost the entire game on its way to a 113-105 win over the Magic at the Amway Center over Orlando.

"From the start, we knew it was a long game," Knicks guard Courtney Lee said. "They came out and went on a run. We knew that was a bit of early gas. We just stuck with it, kept our composure and we just continued to execute. That group down the stretch, it was just spacing the floor and moving the ball and opening up everything for somebody else."

Lee led the Knicks with 20 points. But he had plenty of help.

Thomas scored 17 points. Willy Hernangomez scored 14 points on 7-for-10 shooting and Justin Holiday added 10. O'Quinn came off the bench and scored 11 points and grabbed eight rebounds to help charge the Knicks back into the game and into the lead.

New York made 27 of 28 free throws, putting pressure on Orlando's defense throughout the game with its ability to get into the paint.

Porzingis scored 14 points and grabbed seven rebounds, but played only 3 1/2 minutes in the fourth quarter. The Knicks bench did all the talking.

And New York needed every single one of those points to keep up with the Magic.

Orlando opened the game with an 11-0 scoring burst and led 22-8 early on. The Magic looked to have control of the game throughout the contest, with Evan Fournier dropping in baskets and the Magic moving the ball well.

Fournier led the team with 25 points, making 4 of 9 3-pointers. Aaron Gordon added 17 points. Elfrid Payton recorded a triple-double with 16 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.

But it was not enough for Orlando. The Magic scored just 13 points in the final quarter, making just three of their 17 shots and one of their 11 3-pointers.

"It's tough, but we deserve it," Fournier said. "They just played more aggressive. I thought the problem from the last five minutes was definitely defense. They played with more energy. Their execution was better. On our end, offensively, it was not bad, but it wasn't good enough to close the game. That's the difference tonight."

Orlando has struggled to close games since the All-Star Break. Of their four losses in the six games since the All-Star Break, the Magic led entering the fourth quarter in three. That includes losing a 15-point lead Sunday night in Washington to the Washington Wizards.

The Magic were left looking for answers again after a disappointing defeat.

Like the Magic, the Knicks view their playoff hopes as dim but not extinguished. They are both still pushing to get wins and build some momentum toward the offseason. A win over another struggling team could prove to be a big boost.

New York (26-38) still has a long way to go to catch up in the Eastern Conference playoff race. But winning with Anthony and Porzingis on the sidelines for most of the crunch-time minutes says a lot.

"It's huge for everybody," Lee said. "That's what it's going to take for us to continue to be successful going forward. Especially chasing this playoff run is to have everybody be available and be ready."

The Knicks were certainly ready to rise to that challenge in Orlando on Monday.

NOTES:

-- G Ron Baker started in place of Knicks F Carmelo Anthony. He played 17 scoreless minutes.

-- Magic C Nikola Vucevic missed his second consecutive game with a sore hamstring. Bismack Biyombo, who recorded 14 points and 15 rebounds in Vucevic's place on Sunday in a 115-114 loss to the Washington Wizards, received his second consecutive start. Biyombo finished Monday's game with 10 points and 14 rebounds.

-- Knicks G Derrick Rose is starting to increase his aggression, shooting 24 free throws in his previous two games combined. It marked the first time all season Rose attempted 10-plus free throws in back-to-back games. Rose went 8 of 8 at the line Monday but did not play in the fourth quarter.

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