In a crazy game full of momentum swings, the Orlando Magic were able to defeat the New York Knicks by the score of 116-110 to extend their winning streak to three games. The Magic were led by a balanced attack, as five players scored in double-figures. Dwight Howard continues his brilliant play, finishing with 30 points, 16 rebounds, and five blocks. The Knicks’ lack of size hurt them against the Magic, given that they had no one that could slow down Howard. Shelden Williams, Shawne Williams, Ronny Turiaf, and Amar’e Stoudemire each guarded Howard in different junctures of the game, and none of them were able to do anything against him. Jameer Nelson had one of his best games of the season, contributing with 26 points, four assists, and three rebounds. After a slow start in the first half, Nelson scored 23 of his 26 points in the third and fourth quarters. Chipping in off the bench were Quentin Richardson with 10 points, J.J. Redick with 12 points, and Ryan Anderson with 16 points. It’s worth noting that Gilbert Arenas did not play due to a sore left knee, while Hedo Turkoglu got ejected in the second quarter after arguing a call. As such, different players — like Chris Duhon — had to step up in their absences and they were able to do so. Yeah, this was a weird game to watch.
In the first quarter, there was little Orlando could do wrong. The Magic jumped out to an 11-point lead in the period, thanks in large part because Howard could not be stopped offensively. Howard was relentless on the low block, converting hook shots with relative ease. When Howard wasn’t busy doing that, he took to the sky and converted on several alley-oop connections from Nelson and Turkoglu. Plus, Orlando’s defensive intensity was excellent and made things as difficult as possible for New York to execute on offense. As the Magic entered the second quarter, it seemed as if they were well on their way to a blowout victory. Not so fast.
From the start of the period until the 7:01 mark, Howard sat on the bench as head coach Stan Van Gundy gave him his usual rest. Unfortunately for Orlando, their lead evaporated quickly while Howard was a spectator. With Howard not anchoring the Magic offensively or defensively, the rest of the players on the roster were unable to pick up the slack and the Knicks took advantage. When Howard reentered the game, an 11-point lead was cut down to four points. And even with Howard back on the court, New York was able to develop momentum and take the lead as the quarter progressed. The Knicks can thank the efforts of Stoudemire and Billups. With New York dictating the pace, Stoudemire got into a rhythm on offense not only by making his jumpers but attacking the basket and being aggressive, drawing fouls and getting to the free throw line. Billups, on the other hand, simply made a living at the charity stripe.
It was more of the same for most of the third quarter, as Carmelo Anthony took his turn to dominate offensively for the Knicks, scoring 10 points in the period. But Orlando slowly chipped away at the lead, cutting it to five points.
Things quickly changed in the fourth quarter, as the Magic grabbed momentum and surged into the lead thanks to a 5-man unit that worked wonders — Nelson, Jason and Quentin Richardson, Anderson, and Howard.
Quentin Richardson was a breathe of fresh air for Orlando, playing with energy and effort that trickled down to the rest of his teammates. Thanks to Richardson and Anderson making a few three-pointers, the Magic regained the lead at the 8:56 mark in the period and never relinquished it.
In fact, three-point shots were partly the main cause for Orlando’s comeback. In the first half, the Magic made one three-pointer. Part of the reason that was the case was because New York was unable to contain Howard. As such, Orlando was encouraged to continue feeding Howard the basketball because he was scoring almost all the time. The problem that caused, however, was a lack of involvement from the supporting cast. A lot of times the Magic deal with inconsistency issues on offense and this is one of the reasons why. When Howard is playing well, maybe too well offensively, that creates a paradox in which Orlando is sometimes worse off because the perimeter players are unable to make an impact. Against the Knicks, that’s what happened in the first and second quarters.
However, in the second half, the Magic were able to get contributions from the likes of Nelson, Richardson, Redick, and Anderson. As a result, Orlando began to make their three-pointers (seven in the half, five of them coming in the fourth quarter during the comeback) because players other than Howard were getting involved on offense. Such a strange phenomenon, but it was intriguing to watch. The player that stood out the most in the period was Nelson.
Even though Billups had his way with Nelson throughout the game, drawing fouls and getting to the free-throw line an obscene 20 times, this was a matchup that was not one-sided. Billups is not the same defender that he once was and even then, he’s always had trouble defending Nelson dating back to his days with the Detroit Pistons. While Billups exploits Nelson with his strength, Nelson causes a lot of problems on the flipside with his quickness. That speed and athleticism was on display in the quarter, as Nelson did whatever he wanted offensively.
[6:26] Nelson makes free throw 1 of 2
[6:26] Nelson makes free throw 2 of 2
[5:52] Nelson makes layup
[5:24] Nelson makes 15-foot jumpshot
[5:00] Nelson makes 25-foot three-point jumpshot
[4:35] Nelson makes layup
[2:26] Nelson makes 21-foot jumpshot
[0:39] Nelson makes free throw 1 of 2
That’s 2009 Nelson.
Part of Nelson’s onslaught was aided by Turkoglu’s ejection and Arenas’ absence, which forced him to take on more ball-handling responsibilities.
But this is the type of production that the Magic could really use from Nelson. At this point, Howard can be counted on every night to put up big numbers. Unfortunately for Orlando, no one else on the roster has shown the capability that they can be consistent like Howard. If any player defines the Magic’s ability to master the art of being inconsistent, it’s Nelson. It’d be nice if Nelson could channel this type of performance with the snap of the finger but the reality is that he can’t.
Nevertheless, Nelson has it in him to play like an All-Star point guard.