CLEVELAND, OH - FEBRUARY 25: Amar'e Stoudemire #1 of the New York Knicks stands at the free throw line during the game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on February 25, 2011 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Amar'e Stoudemire
New York head coach Mike D'Antoni said it from the moment Anthony and Billups arrived last week that there would be growing pains.
And while Sunday's win over the Heat was a preview of what this team is meant to look like, the results that bookended that performance -- losses to the hapless Cavs on Friday and the Magic on Tuesday night -- help reinforce D'Antoni's point.
The 116-110 loss in Orlando was a microcosm of the new-look Knicks: stretches of championship-caliber basketball punctuated by missed shots and suspect defense.
"We don't have a problem on offense," Anthony said after the game. "Our defense needs to gel together and figure out what we're trying to do."
The Knicks held the Magic to just 17 second-quarter points, but it couldn't do much to stop Orlando in the other three quarters.
Magic forward Dwight Howard imposed his will early, scoring 17 points in the first quarter, and point guard Jameer Nelson did most of the damage late, adding 14 fourth-quarter points, many of which came after beating several Knicks defenders to the basket.
D'Antoni admitted that his team was slow to cover jump shooters but added "we were cautious because of Dwight."
The Knicks offense continues to make strides, even if sporadically.
In Orlando, Amar'e Stoudemire and Billups each scored 30 points, and Anthony added 25 more.
"We are not totally there yet and that is to be expected," Stoudemire said. "We don't want moral victories, but I think we should have won the game. We played well enough. We just didn't close it out."
And then, Billups was injured late in the game after taking a Howard knee to his thigh as he tried to get around a screen. "He got banged up pretty good," D'Antoni said. "We'll see [where he is on Wednesday]. … you just never know. It's going to be sore, so we'll find out how bad."
"Hopefully he gets it right. We need him," Anthony added.
No rest for the weary, though. The Knicks host the New Orleans Hornets at Madison Square Garden Wednesday night.