AP Photo/John Raoux
Early in the fourth quarter, the Orlando Magic were leading 80-79 against the New York Knicks and giving them everything they could handle. The Magic were competing and playing hard on both ends of the floor.
The Knicks responded by going on an 18-4 run, essentially ending the game with 1:29 left. New York ratcheted up their defensive intensity, making it difficult for Orlando to create easy buckets for themselves. Also, the Magic didn’t do themselves any favors by failing to execute on either side of the ball (the same thing happened in their loss to the Chicago Bulls one week ago). Especially offensively, where Orlando committed seven turnovers in the period.
The Magic’s lack of execution in the fourth quarter, particularly when it came to taking care of the basketball, proved to be their death knell. Another game, another loss.
For Orlando, there’s a couple of positives they can take away from this game, namely that rookies Maurice Harkless (10 points, seven rebounds, and four blocks in 19 minutes) and Andrew Nicholson played well (11 points in 10 minutes).
Harkless was one of the top attractions in tonight’s game because of his defense on Carmelo Anthony. In a 30-second stretch that spanned the end of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth quarter, Harkless blocked Anthony not once, not twice, but three times. The first two times, Harkless blocked Anthony in rapid succession when he tried to score at the rim (first off the dribble, then off an inbounds pass). Anthony got rejected a third time after he tried to back down Harkless on the right block and attempt another layup. On all three blocks, Harkless used his 7-foot wingspan to contest Anthony’s shot without fouling.
Yes, Harkless also had 10 points and seven rebounds but it was his disruptive defense against Anthony throughout the game that proved to be eye-opening.
As for Nicholson, he put his diverse and refined skill-set offensively on display once again. His most impressive sequence came on his first basket of the game late in the second quarter. Defended by Rasheed Wallace, Nicholson posted him up on the left block, then went up-and-under for a reverse layup, using the rim to protect against Wallace blocking the shot. It was a nifty move by Nicholson and an example of his refined post game, which is rare to find in a rookie big man.
Even though the Magic lost to the Knicks, the loss shouldn’t matter in the grand scheme of things for a rebuilding team. What should matter for Orlando is that they develop their rookies like Maurice Harkless and Andrew Nicholson (fellow rookie Kyle O’Quinn’s development is to be determined). For the Magic, games like these are a positive sign.
MVP (Most Valuable Player)
When J.R. Smith gets it going offensively, there’s not much opposing defenses can do to stop him. He went to work mostly in isolation, scoring 21 points on 9-for-14 shooting from the floor in 32 minutes.
LVP (Least Valuable Player)
Arron Afflalo was dreadful for Orlando. Not only did he struggle on offense, scoring 13 points on 4-for-14 shooting, but he committed seven turnovers and was helpless at times defending Anthony in the post.
Even though the Magic outplayed New York for a good chunk of the game, turnovers eventually doomed them. Orlando committed 20 turnovers, including seven in the fourth quarter alone, while the Knicks coughed it up nine times for the whole game.