Ryan Anderson does not create his own shot. He is the first to admit that. He will say that after every game he scores 20 or more points in. Somehow though, teams tend to leave him alone beyond the arc. By the end of Orlando’s 102-93 win over New York at Madison Square Garden, you can audibly hear the groans of another Anderson 3-pointer leaving his hands and likely going in.
Anderson scored 30 points on 11-for-19 shooting and 7-for-13 3-point shooting. It was a career day offensively for Anderson. It might have taken one of the most frustrating offensive games for Dwight Howard, he was banged and muscled around in a never-ending duel with Tyson Chandler, for Anderson to get those attempts. But with New York so focused on stopping Howard, doubling him at every opportunity, it freed up Anderson beyond the arc.
Orlando’s offense muddied through most of the day. But in the fourth quarter and in a close game, the Magic had the closing kick to win it.
Hedo Turkoglu hit a 3-pointer off the backboard to start a long run that turned a two-point deficit into the nine-point win. Turkoglu scored most of his 15 points in the final stanza. J.J. Redick provided a big lift filling in for Jason Richardson, pacing the Magic from beyond the arc early on and then finishing off the Knicks with some big plays in transition. Redick had 21 points.
And then there was Anderson. Ready to shoot as always. And usually open to boot. The Knicks could not rotate fast enough to find him and the Magic had the ball moving well enough to post enough offense to get the win.
It did not look that way for a good chunk of the afternoon.
Carmelo Anthony was brilliant for most of the afternoon. He attacked the basket and got to the line on almost every drive it seemed, especially in the second quarter. Anthony finished with 33 points on 9-for-27 shooting, but made 14 of his 16 free throw attempts. Add in nine rebounds and five assists and it was a pretty strong game for someone who was questionable to even play until right before tip off.
The Magic did not have an answer for him as evidenced by his score line. So when the team needed to get down and dirty and play defense, it went zone.
The 2-3 zone sent the Knicks for a loop in the final stages of the game and the Magic took complete control in the final six minutes of the game as they switched to the zone defense. Suddenly, Anthony’s driving lanes were closed and the Knicks became a perimeter shooting team. That is not something the Knicks are necessarily good at.
New York shot 41.1 percent and 5 for 20 from beyond the arc. It was a great adjustment not only to protect Dwight Howard, who had five fouls at the time, but also to slow down the Knicks and force them to pass the ball. They never could make an adjustment or hit the shots they did get against the zone.
Most importantly, the Magic held New York to one shot for much of that stretch. And when they got chances to get out on the fast break or to score, they took advantage of it.
The man-to-man defense is still an issue — Anthony’s 16 free throw attempts and New York’s 33 free throw attempts overall are not going anywhere — but Orlando showed resolve again and put it together for a win.
In the end, it did not matter much that Dwight Howard had only six field goal attempts and eight points to go with 10 rebounds. He missed six of his eight free throw attempts and turned the ball over six times too.
It was a struggle for Howard to be sure. But his mere presence was enough to draw in the defense too much and free up Anderson, Redick and then eventually Turkoglu.
It was far from a perfect game for Orlando. And that might make the win that much more important. It was another imperfect game with a lot to improve on. Yet, the Magic were never out of the game and buckled down long enough to get the win.