The New York Knicks have struggled for years to defend Dwight Howard, so perhaps we can forgive them for getting a little excited when they finally had success on that front. In his first match-up with Howard as a Knick, Tyson Chandler absolutely shone. Chandler absorbed countless elbows from the Orlando Magic big man and forced him into tough-angle shots and several offensive fouls, limiting his overall production to well below season averages. Chandler was so successful, it seemed, that the rest of the Knicks wanted to get in on the fun. New York repeatedly doubled over and switched pick-and-rolls to help on Howard, leaving Magic shooters open on the perimeter. Therein lay New York's doom.
In the first half, Orlando relied on Howard to pass out of double teams. He did so nicely, but shooters regularly failed to capitalize from outside. After the break, Orlando relied more on high pick-and-rolls at the top of the arc, and found much more success. The Knicks' notoriously switch-y defense allowed Ryan Anderson, J.J. Redick and Hedo Turkoglu to chip into an absurd three-point showing (17 made threes out of 35 = 51 points = half of Orlando's output) and push ahead of the Knicks in the fourth quarter, eventually winning 102-93.
Anderson was the chief gunner of the three, hitting seven of his thirteen attempts from outside and notching a career-high 30 points to supplement a burgeoning campaign for the Most Improved Player award. Redick, a perennial Knick-killer, was close behind with 21 points of his own.
New York's offense hung around in fits and starts, keeping the game close until that fateful final period. A visibly smarting Carmelo Anthony, playing through a strained wrist and sprained ankle, led the team with a sort of funky 33 points (9-27 from the field, but 14-16 from the line), while Josh Harrellson and Jared Jeffries made relatively sizable two-way contributions to compensate for Amar'e Stoudemire's maddening foul trouble and sputtering offense. The team attack finally fell apart in full when Stan Van Gundy trotted out a zone defense in the mid-fourth quarter. New York stopped penetrating and settled for outside shots that-- while decent looks-- just wouldn't fall.
Orlando's win was their fourth in a row and moved them to 9-3 on the season, while New York's loss dropped them to 6-7, back below .500.