The Knicks dropped their third-straight game, 102-93 to the Magic, on their annual Martin Luther King Day matinee, but don’t blame their defense.
As hot as Orlando was from the perimeter, shooting an astounding 17-of-35 from behind the arc, they were impotent in the interior – and that’s saying something considering the league’s best center, Dwight Howard, manned the middle. Howard was held to just eight points on 3-of-6 shooting before fouling out late in the game and the biggest reason was the play of prized free-agent signee Tyson Chandler.
Many critics panned the Knicks (6-7) for shelling out $14 million annually to a player as offensively limited as Chandler (he only had four points), but his worth on the court far extended just putting the ball in the hoop. Chandler eliminated the preeminent pivot and made him a non-factor from the opening tip until the final buzzer and was the main reason why Orlando could only muster 18 points in the paint.
- PHOTOS: What's Brewing in Steamy Hallows, the Harry Potter-Inspired Cafe19 Pictures
- All of these celebrities have had their nudes leaked 36 Pictures
In his previous three seasons as head coach of the Knicks, Mike D’Antoni never had an answer for Howard in the paint, but that was before Chandler arrived. With Chandler anchoring the middle the Knicks’ defense did more than enough to win the game because they finally had someone to at least slow down the league’s most dominant inside presence. Chandler’s defense on Howard gave the Knicks a fighting chance. Too bad the offense didn’t comply.
“Dwight didn’t play one of his particularly great games and we did a great job at handling him,” said Amar’e Stoudemire. “But they still knocked down the open outside shots and did a great job of moving the ball.”
The Magic won from the outside and were able to break down the switching Knicks defenders. In games past against Howard and the Magic D’Antoni would “throw the kitchen sink at him” and “not just rely on one thing because he’s too good,” but with Chandler in the middle the Knicks were able to play Howard’s supporting cast honestly.
“Tyson got him. [Howard] is good, but we decided to play him straight up,” D’Antoni said when asked if he ever gave thought of doubling Howard.
D’Antoni then lamented the fact the Knicks’ perimeter defense failed.
“We didn’t want to double-team as much [in the past] and go crazy because they’re great at spacing for [3-pointers],” he said.
Ultimately, there weren’t enough Chandlers on the floor defensively and not enough tenacious shooters offensively for the Knicks.
“Give them credit, they had some tough looks and they made them, [but] we missed a lot of coverages. There were too many times when we switched late or didn’t cover each other. There are steps we need to take,” said D’Antoni, adding his main peeve was that Carmelo Anthony was as alone offensively as Chandler was defensively. “It’s not like he [Anthony] is looking around thinking, ‘I need to pass it.’ We just don’t have guys out there who are aggressive enough. We had some looks against the zone, but guys turned down shots. … The ball needs to flow, especially against the zone.”
The way the Magic (9-3) won the game, tying a Knicks’ opponent record of 17 made 3-pointers, was even more galling than losing a game because of a big night from Howard because the Knicks finally had an answer for him. But this time it was the supporting cast that burned New York.
“I thought we did a good job of containing him but the shooters got loose in the fourth quarter,” said Chandler. “We got separated from their shooters too much and they got too many good looks. … It’s frustrating because we need to put together full games and not just stretches and spurts here and there. But the big picture is it’s a long season and I don’t think any of us expected to be at the top of their games this early.”
»The Knicks were led by Anthony’s game-high 33 points but it came off poor shooting (9-of-27).
»Ryan Anderson led Orlando with 30 points, including 7-of-13 from 3.
»J.J. Redick also chipped in with 21 points, starting for the injured Jason Richardson. Redick nailed 3-of-6 from behind the arc.
»Rookie sensation Iman Shumpert chipped in with 12 points, 10 coming in a manic third quarter.
»Stoudemire was non-existent as his offensive slump continued. He finished with just 10 points (4-of-7 shooting) and four rebounds and was saddled with foul trouble all afternoon, as he only played 21 minutes.
»New York’s next game is a Wednesday night home date with Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns.
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.