Photo by Ray Amati/NBAE via Getty Images
The Magic are great at having small successes, but still losing games. The interesting thing is that the small successes, just like the ways they end up losing games, change from night to night. On Wednesday, Orlando had no trouble scoring from the perimeter and did a great job containing Carmelo Anthony, but lost the game in the paint.
As far as defensive schemes go, the Magic did a wonderful job on Carmelo Anthony in the first half and really the entire game. With Maurice Harkless guarding him straight up, Orlando switched in and out of double and even triple teams, and held Carmelo to a meager nine points in the first half.
Melo would finish the night with 20 points (setting a Knicks franchise record with his 30th straight 20-point game), but he shot just 2-for-7 from deep, and, aside from a little scoring burst in the fourth quarter was, at least by his standards, not a huge factor in the game.
And yes, Harkless resembled more than just a decent defender. Even Clyde Frazier pointed out in the broadcast that the reason Harkless is going to be a good player in this league is because he’s a terrific defender. Harkless stayed with Anthony just enough to make sure he didn’t get hot and hang 40 on the Magic. More importantly, he turned Carmelo into a jumpshooter and protected the paint by guiding Melo into help defense.
But Carmelo was not the main attacking option for the Knicks in this one.
For most of the night, Redick and Nelson were getting buckets at will. Nelson absolutely abused Raymond Felton with his first step, and, much like the last meeting with the Knicks, found his way to the rim easily. Similarly, Redick attacked, but more importantly was shooting well from deep. All the while, Carmelo was relatively contained.
The biggest issue for Orlando, though, was their inability to stop Tyson Chandler and Amar’e Stoudemire in the paint. Chandler and Stoudemire combined to score 35 points and shoot 17-for-18 from the floor. There was truly nothing Orlando could do to stop them and you have to think they felt the loss of Glen Davis (who left the game early in the first quarter with a broken left foot), especially in the moments when Andrew Nicholson was guarding Tyson Chandler.
To sum it up, you can’t go up with Nikola Vucevic and basically no one else, and expect to shut down Stoudemire and Chandler (much less win the game). And that’s an interesting problem to end up with, considering the primary issues at the outset were scoring and containing Carmelo.
Again, it’s a strange year for so many reasons, not the least of which is the constant shifting of successes and struggles for this young Magic team.
MVP (Most Valuable Player)
J.J. Redick. 29 points on 9-for-14 shooting (4-for-7 from three-point range) basically says it all. Redick was lights out and made us all forget for a few moments that Afflalo was not in the lineup.
After playing the first four minutes of the game, Glen Davis left the court with a broken left foot. His absence left a huge hole in the Magic frontcourt, and opened the flood gates for Chandler and Stoudemire.
That Was … a Waste
It would have been nice to have seen this output from Orlando’s starting backcourt with a fully staffed squad. Instead, the Magic fall for the seventh straight time, and outside of the fantasy world, those 50 combined points from Redick and Nelson were all for naught.