Worse than Boston? Magic’s effort makes you wonder


It probably is not a good thing to be pining for a game that set franchise lows for offensive futility. Maybe this game was not as bad as the brick-fest Orlando laid in Beantown in January. It sure seemed like the effort and energy level though was about as low as it had been all season.

Stan Van Gundy, Dwight Howard and the whole team had no answer for the sudden and utter collapse offensively and defensively from Orlando in the second and third quarters. Dante Marchitelli of Sun Sports reported in one early timeout in the third quarter Stan Van Gundy asked his team what was the matter followed by Dwight Howard imploring his team to play better if they wanted to win.

At that point the lead was hovering around 20 points and a comeback was still possible. Then things got worse.

Perhaps capitalized by a lazy outlet pass from Howard to Jameer Nelson that was easily picked off by a stealthy J.R. Smith and converted into a 3-pointer, New York built as much as a 39-point lead — you read that right, 39 points — and easily won 108-86 at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday.

ScoreOff. Rtg.eFG%O.Reb.%TO%FTR
New York108123.757.639.012.614.1

The only thing that made the score look even somewhat decent was a great, hard effort from the bench players and the guys who don’t normally play. And the Knicks going hero ball and allowing the Magic to entertain the idea of a crazy comeback. Those were just dreams, because with the way the Magic approached the second and third quarters, where they gave up a 12-0 run and a 21-0 run, there was no chance of coming back.

Yes, New York made a lot of shots that are abnormal for the team. Iman Shumpert scored a career-high 25 points and hit on 4 of his 10 3-point attempts — he is a 27.6 percent 3-point shooter on the year — and Baron Davis had 11 points in what could have been his best game in a Knicks uniform. New York also went ballistic 24 assists on 43 field goal makes, 50.6 percent shooting 12 3-point field goals.

Everything the Knicks did worked. They made difficult shots, they got the ball moving around the perimeter well. Their offense had rhythm and flow. Carmelo Anthony did what he did best and scored on his isolations, forcing the Magic to dig down hard on double teams. He scored 25 points on 9-for-15 shooting, but more importantly loosened the defense enough to open up those opportunities for the shooter like Shumpert and Steve Novak, who also hit four 3-pointers.

They employed the Magic strategy perfectly, in other words.

Early on it looked like Orlando would at least be able to score with New York. Jameer Nelson had 11 of his 17 points in the first quarter and got himself going by attacking the basket. The ball moved beautifully inside-out and the Magic were not settling for any shots. Even if this was not to be their shooting night, the Magic could have been all right with a better overall effort.

Orlando did score 29 points in the first quarter.

The wheels fell off though in the second quarter. What was once an eight-point lead was overtaken and expanded on as the Magic simply could not get any offense with the second unit of Chris DuhonJ.J. RedickHedo TurkogluRyan AndersonGlen Davis out on the floor. Luckily New York missed shots during this stretch so things did not become worse.

The Knicks though still took a 16-point lead into the locker room. That was because the starters could not bring much more to the plate. Orlando had just 12 points in the second quarter and 30 points total in the middle two quarters. New York had 65 points in that time.

That is just pure domination. And the scoreboard, the Magic’s on-court demeanor, the lack of desperation and will just expressed that.

The team was simply at a loss in trying to describe why the team lacked so much effort in this game. And, more importantly, why this is a continuing trend and theme for this season.

Orlando does not have games like this every time there is a question of effort. But the Magic have had games like this far too often for a team that holds itself out to be a title contender. Orlando continues to be the hardest team to peg — at one moment looking absolutely dominant on both ends and the other looking absolutely clueless.

It might be late, but Stan Van Gundy has to do something to find a way to keep his team energized. And the players have to find a way to keep themselves energized and playing hard. Games like Wednesday night’s simply cannot happen when the games start to count in less than a month.