Knicks-Magic: New York Meets the Team They'd Like to Be

Magic hit 17 threes on way to MLK matinee win

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    Sometimes a picture tells you all you need to know about a Knicks loss.

    If you wanted to understand why the Knicks moved heaven and earth to get themselves Tyson Chandler before the season, hopefully you weren't blocked from watching Monday afternoon's game against the Magic.

    Chandler, with plenty of help from his friends, shut down Dwight Howard at the Garden and rendered him mostly irrelevant to the outcome of the game. After watching Shawne Williams, Jerome James and other overmatched Knicks try to defend Howard in recent years, the difference was remarkable.

    Howard scored just eight points, turned the ball over six times and fouled out thanks to Chandler making his life a living hell. Unfortunately, the Knicks still found a way to lose 102-93 in the annual Martin Luther King Day matinee.

    It isn't hard to pinpoint the reason why the Knicks lost the game. The Magic made 17 three-pointers on the day as their offense adapted to Howard's invisibility by moving the ball crisply around the perimeter and taking advantage of the Knicks' continued inability to close out on shooters from long range.

    Ryan Anderson hit seven threes and the Hedo Turkoglu/J.J. Redick duo combined for seven more in a performance that wound up doing a lot more to highlight the Knicks' offensive shortcomings than any defensive woes. The Magic offense flowed even without one of its lead options providing anything but a reason to doubt the effectiveness of the strategy of changing the New York basketball landscape by bringing Howard to Brooklyn.

    The Knicks, on the other hand, struggled to find open shots all afternoon and bricked many of the ones they did find. Carmelo Anthony, back from ankle and wrist injuries, was the leading offender with a 9-for-27 effort from the floor, although it was hard to blame him too much given how little the rest of the team produces offensively.

    A tough Magic zone made it impossible for the Knicks to get any points on the interior and they don't have any point guards or shotmakers who can make defenses spread out and open up the floor for easy buckets. The aforementioned Shawne Williams wasn't missed on defense, but he'd be a perfect fit for an offense that has had to turn to Jorts Harrellson for perimeter offense in the early part of the season.

    Steve Novak, the one guy on the team who sorta qualifies as a zone buster, never got off the bench and the Knicks just piled up misses on their way to a loss. When you're looking to Novak as a savior, it's a pretty fair indictment of the rest of the current roster, particularly the guards who are making it impossible for the Knicks to find anything close to a consistent offensive flow.

    Overall, you can't be unhappy about a defensive performance that forces a team to take 35 shots from beyond the arc. There are going to be nights when those shots fall, especially when so many of them are taken without a hand in the face, but that wasn't the only reason why the team fell to defeat.

    The offense's continued stagnation and overreliance on Melo to produce anything on that end of the floor played a massive role. Until that ends, the Knicks defense can improve all the way to Riley/Van Gundy levels and the results aren't going to improve.

    In other words, the Knicks need to look more like the Magic looked on Monday if they want to be able to beat teams like the Magic over the rest of the season.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.