It took three-plus quarters for the New York Knick's defense to show up, but New York was able to pull away late from the pesky Orlando Magic and improve to 5-0 on the season with a 99-89 victory. Carmelo Anthony had a big fourth quarter, hitting key baskets late and sparking a 12-2 run that put the game away, finishing with a team-high 25 points and eight rebounds. The Knicks allowed just 13 fourth quarter points, a respite from the first three quarters where the Magic gave the Knicks fits.
The first half was one of alternating runs. The Knicks trailed by five early, only to flip things around and take a ten point lead at 35-25 just over two minutes into the second quarter. But the Knicks' usually staunch defense softened, with the Magic erasing the lead quickly and eventually lapping New York - taking a 51-47 lead into the break. The Magic, entering the game as the lowest scoring team in the NBA, shot an uncharacteristically-high 49% in the opening half, getting a big contribution from New York native Moe Harkless who scored 10 points before the halfway point.
For the first time this season, the Knicks - namely Anthony - were visibly frustrated. In the first half, Anthony was complaining to the officials quite a bit, threw his hands up in disgust after he wasn't fed on a post-up, and was given his third technical foul of the season.
J.R. Smith gave the Knicks a much needed boost at the beginning of the third. The Knicks' sixth man came on early in the half, replacing Ronnie Brewer, and quickly scored 11 points, drew a charge and picked off an errant Magic pass. Smith's versatility kept the still-sluggish Knicks in the game throughout the third quarter, staking them to a one-point lead heading into their dominant fourth quarter. Overall, Smith finished with 21 points on 9-of-14 shooting.
New York is now 5-0 for just the third time in their history. The other two times they were 5-0, they made it to the NBA Finals. Nobody thinks that this team's hot start means they're going to end up there, but there have been plenty of consistent positives (defense, ball security, the efficiency of Smith and Anthony) through this opening that it's hard to dismiss this as just a hot start.
Tougher tests are to come, with the Knicks staying on the road Thursday in San Antonio against the Spurs and on Friday at the Memphis Grizzlies.