Knicks, Shorthanded, Defeat Orlando Convincingly

Published on: 29th March, 2012


Knicks, Shorthanded, Defeat Orlando Convincingly  | read this item

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New York – Sometimes, even the best laid plans of a basketball team go array. When the New York Knickerbockers began play this season, they imagined themselves as a high-powered, high-scoring unit led by Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire, two of the most productive forwards in NBA history, with third-year point guard, Toney Douglas running Mike D’Antoni’s offense. But sometimes, like life itself, stuff happens.

Instead, the Knicks have seen injury, lack of chemistry, a coaching change, and wild swings in the won-loss record of this strike-shortened season affect everything they do on an almost daily basis. Their team identity has changed from D’Antoni’s “speedball” offense to D’Antoni’s non-productive offense to goodbye Mike D’Antoni, hello Mike Woodson. And yet, here they stand tonight, after another huge and surprising victory over the 32-18 Orlando Magic at Madison Square Garden, 108-86, sitting in the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with a 2 ½ game lead over the ninth-place Milwaukee Bucks.

In the course of all these identity alterations, they have also seen serious injuries to Stoudemire (bulging disc in his back), Jared Jeffries (knee), and Bill Walker (hip) that have caused them to miss several weeks of games. More recently, starting point guard Jeremy Lin has been out for the past two games with a sore left knee at a time the Knicks can least afford to lose their floor leader, himself a part of the unplanned changes affecting the Knicks this season.

Without Stoudemire, Lin, and Jeffries tonight, and for the foreseeable future, Woodson has dipped into his coaching heritage bag and pulled out the old school style of winning basketball games.

“Our defense is just getting stops and we’re rebounding the ball,” said Woodson. “Offense comes and goes but you win games with defense and rebounding.”

Sounds a little like Red Holzman, the Knicks legendary coach of the last Madison Square Garden team to win a championship, almost 39-years ago, as he used to talk about the keys to winning basketball back in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

“As a coach, I’m always interested in who is going to step up and make plays,” Woodson continued. “We’re getting it from everybody and to me, that’s a sign of a good quality team that wants to win. We’re playing for something. We’re trying to get to the top of our division. We’ll take one game at a time, one practice, one film session at a time. My job and my staff’s job is to continue to push them to believe they can do that.

Anthony and Iman Shumpert each scored 25 points for the Knicks (26-25), who won for the eighth time in nine games despite playing without the injured Amare Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin. New York outscored Orlando 65-30 in the middle two quarters and has a winning record for the first time since it was 6-5 before a loss to Oklahoma City on Jan. 14.

The Knicks moved 2½ games ahead of Milwaukee for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and pulled within 2½ of Philadelphia and Boston for first place in the Atlantic Division. New York could get Stoudemire back before the end of the season, announcing Wednesday that he could be back in two to four weeks after non-surgical treatment for a bulging disk in his back.

Anthony knows he must step up until then without Stoudemire and Lin (sore left knee), and he had his second straight strong performance since they were hurt. Anthony scored 28 points Monday, and easily would have surpassed that had he not been limited to 26 minutes.

Playing despite a strained right groin, Anthony shot 9 of 15, his jumper that has been off all season falling in a third-quarter flurry that blew open the game.

Dwight Howard had 12 points on seven shots for the Magic, who had won 14 of the previous 17 meetings. They equaled their highest point total of the season Monday by scoring 117 in Toronto, but couldn’t get anything going against a Knicks team that is allowing only 86 points per game since Woodson replaced D’Antoni on March 14.

“When we want to play, we’re a great team. We just have to bring that effort every night,” Howard said. “It should be frustrating for everybody. We just have to step up and play the right way. When we don’t, we have games like this.”

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