Mar. 28, 2012; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks guard Iman Shumpert (21) dribbles the ball around Orlando Magic point guard Jameer Nelson (14) during the second half at Madison Square Garden. Knicks won 108-86. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE
The Knicks won their third straight and second straight sans Amar'e Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin with a merciless squashing of the Orlando Magic.
This New York Knicks season has been lined with peaks and valleys, but for all the lows, New York hasn't crested above the .500 mark since mid-January. The shorthanded Knicks finally cracked that ceiling on Wednesday night in New York, stomping all over a lethargic batch of Orlando Magic to take a 108-86 win.
With Amar'e Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin missing from their lineup, the Knicks needed Carmelo Anthony to overcome a groin injury and recent shooting woes and lead them over the streaking Magic. That he did, cracking 25 points for the second game in a row (for the first time since early February) and making plays with his passing and defense as well. Anthony shot an efficient 9-for-15 from the field and, when doubled, kicked quickly out to the perimeter for six official assists and a few more of the hockey variety. The Knicks offense radiated from Anthony and shone upon Iman Shumpert (a career-high 25 points), Steve Novak (4-for-8 shooting from outside), and pretty much everyone else at one point or another.
Anthony fell in lockstep with Tyson Chandler on the defensive end, too. With Chandler doing as solid a job as can be done against Dwight Howard, the rest of the Knicks were off the helping hook and compelled to contest shots around the perimeter. After Jameer Nelson flicked away members of New York's Lin-less backcourt with ease in the first quarter, New York tightened up, contained the penetration, and froze the Magic through the second quarter and all but the final minutes of the third. The listless Magic, who faced a deficit of 39 points thanks to a 21-0 third quarter run, actually snipped New York's lead to 19 with a J.J. Redick-piloted counter-run in the third and fourth quarters, but were hard-pressed to return within striking distance of the Knicks. Besides getting badly out-shot, Orlando granted New York advantages on both backboards and in the turnover battle, grabbing just 34 rebounds and surrendering the ball 18 times to the Knicks' 49 and 11.
The win was New York's eighth in nine games under Mike Woodson and pushed New York to 26-25, their first winning record since Jan. 11. The third straight victory helped the Knicks maintain their two and a half game lead on Milwaukee for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Magic fell to 32-19 in defeat, but sit pretty firmly (for now) in the East's third seed.
For all of Wednesday's box scores, see SI.com's NBA scoreboard.