It was the first possession of the game.
New York had the floor spread with all the shooters that make the team so dangerous and the team's most dangerous weapon in the lineup after missing six of the previous eight games. Orlando's defense knew it was going to have a difficult night.
Anthony gave a preview of that difficulty as the ball whipped all the way around the horn to him and with a hand in his face, he drained a 3-pointer. The 3-point shooting proved to be a theme throughout the game. New York is a team built to make 3-pointers and has the veteran wiles to make those little plays.
The Magic? They can get hot. But they have a lot of learning to do.
Orlando put in another nice effort. There was nothing to take away from it as the young players came into the game in very difficult situations down by double digits and fought their way back each time. The deficit just proved to be a little too much.
New York hit 15 3-pointers, four off the team's season high, and got great play from Anthony (21 points, eight rebounds). But more importantly, the Knicks made the little plays good teams do to win games. They found themselves in the right spot for 50/50 balls. And every time, it seemed New York made Orlando pay for being caught even slightly out of position defensively.
The Magic hung around, cutting the deficit to five at halftime and fighting back to make the Knicks perspire a little bit. However, New York was never really threatened in the second half, finding the offense easy with a struggling Orlando defense and finding the ability to keep Orlando's primary offensive weapons on the perimeter.
The Knicks sent the Magic home from this week-long road trip with a 106-94 loss at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday.
For the Magic's starters, whom Jacque Vaughn relied on for the first and third quarters where the Magic scored a total of 34 points, offense was a struggle.
Even with Tyson Chandler out of the game Orlando found it difficult to get into the paint. The Knicks' interior defense was still strong and the perimeter defenders did a good job keeping Orlando to the perimeter. It did not help that Nikola Vucevic came down with an illness and missed his first game of the year.
Still, Orlando got some good looks at the basket and simply could not hit them. The Magic shot 48.1 percent for the game, but just 5 for 17 from beyond the arc. The Magic's usually reliable scorers — Jameer Nelson and Arron Afflalo — combined for 10 points on 3-for-16 shooting. They were a combined 1 for 8 from beyond the arce (Nelson was 1 for 5).
It was not a good shooting night for the starters.
It is hard to put a finger on why though. Because the second unit played so well.
After struggling in the first quarter offensively, things clicked as the second unit played with much more energy and aggression. Beno Udrih was able to cut into the lane and Kyle O'Quinn, really the only true center on the roster with Vucevic out, proved to be a dominant force on the boards. He was willing to mix things up and it certainly helped Orlando.
O'Quinn recorded his first career double double with 12 points and 14 rebounds. There were so many times when he was available for a short jumper or fighting for offensive boards. He played that Vucevic role of keeping possessions alive.
Where Nelson and Afflalo struggled, Beno Udrih had 13 points and eight assists on 5-for-8 shooting. Andrew Nicholson added 14 points too. Tobias Harris joined that group and did a good job helping Orlando create some offense with his ability to get out int he open floor. He had a solid game with 14 points on 7-for-10 shooting.
The energy difference between teh second unit and the starters was pretty noticeable. And not just on the scoreboard — Orlando scored 31 points in the second quarter and 29 points in the fourth largely with those bench players in. Jacque Vaughn did not take his starters out for most of the third quarter as the Magic fell further and further behind.
The hole was too deep for this energetic group to climb out of. Not with Anthony on the other side or J.R. Smith on the other side too.
Both made shots exactly when the Knicks needed them to. And every time it seemed Orlando was about to threaten, a miscommunication turnover or a 3-pointer would fall for New York. It was the breaks a good team knows how to get.
Orlando has proven the team will fight until the end of each game. That was not the question tonight.
Instead, the question was where the energy was early from the starting lineup and whether making shots would have helped. Call it the case of a Playoff team going up against a Lottery team if you want. It felt that way at times.
Again, at least we know this team wants to fight.