Magic 97, Knicks 95

Orlando Magic 97 Final
Recap | Box Score
95 New York Knicks

I’m not in a grading frame of mind tonight, so we’re going to kick it old school. One man, in a world…with a keyboard and a bucketful of #feels—none of them particularly pleasing or fun—about the Knicks, rantin’ and hootin’ and hollerin’ to all his virtual pals.

So yes, a loss, which is pretty much par for the course, The bulk of the chatter around the Knicksian water cooler tomorrow will be about the last play, and whether J.R. was even paying attention to the best-laid plans of Fish and men, or perhaps was scoping out one of the lovely celebrities that were dotting the pricey seats.

It’s certainly worth dissecting, and while there’s very little doubt that a contested thirty-foot heave was not ideal, Fisher was nice enough not to fling anyone under public transportation afterwards, saying, “Once the ball came to J. R., he trusted himself,” he said. “I have no problem with a guy believing in himself.”

The MSG broadcast might have cranked Fisher’s mic to 11, or maybe this bro’s back, but you could hear a lot of what way being said in the ‘Bockers huddle right before Earl went all heroball, and I think I could hear him say something to the effect of, “if not, then get it to…” It’s nice to know that, even though there were a mere 3.3 ticks left on the clock, coach was cobbling together an a mulit-pronged attack. Yay? Yay. (If you haven’t guessed, it’s gonna be a slog to find silver linings in this one.)

Hey Melo, how did you feel about getting frozen out on the last shot?

Melo sad copy

That’s about right.

I can’t figure out why, aside from, you know, being mired in an icky six-game losing streak, but watching this team right now is just grimly depressing. Maybe it’s the constantly spinning wheel of starting lineups, or the dunderheaded, positively Woodson-ian pre-game babble. You know, like this:

We’ve spent a good chunk of e-real estate talking about how freeing rooting for this year’s ‘Bocker model might be, what with the complete and total lack of expectations. Right now, though, everything feels horribly set in stone. Maybe it’s just me, but feel like I know what we’re going to get out of everyone on the roster on a nightly basis. And staring out over the vast expanse that is the next 73 games just makes me go “Ugh.This won’t be fun.”

Seriously, look at the roster. Who are you excited to see hit the court? Hell, tonight’s game made a celebrity want to ditch basketball altogether.

Shump? Okay, yes. But no matter how many times he drains a sweet pull up jumper or hounds a ballhandler, there aren’t many scenarios on the board in which he’s still a Knick after this season. And for a guy that’s supposed to be a lockdown defender, there was a ton of reverting to old, bad habits tonight. He got charbroiled by a dude that looks like he makes a killing selling ditch weed to high schoolers, but insists that you listen to him explain the freaking Fountainhead when you go by his place and says you just have to read it because now he’s, “really going to get his shit together, man.” Fournier also owns a samurai sword. I’d be willing to bet arable land and a freaking grain silo on that one. But even if Shump was going full Bruce Bowen, it doesn’t matter because of all the dumb reach in fouls that are seriously limiting his playing time, often at crucial points in the game.

Shane Larkin? Sure, I guess. But his upside’s “The next sub six-foot guard that Thibs miraculously converts into a potent bench weapon a la Aaron Brooks, Nate Robinson, John Lucas III, and D.J. Augustin.”

Timmy Jr.? Fine, but if he remains an absolute blight on defense, it doesn’t matter how well he shoots from distance or gets Vine-able dunks.

The rest is a bleak assemblage of known quantities and dudes that’ll be gone soon enough. How do you form any kind of attachment to or affection for that?

Then there’s the head coach himself. Yes, young and learning on the job, but what in the name of all that is holy and good was he doing tonight? Travis Freakin’ Wear getting minutes ahead of both Early and THJ, the latter sitting the entire first half, then starting the second in a PG-less lineup. And the explanation, once again, sounds like he’s channeling Son of Wood:

So, the Orlando Magic just ran a totally different team out for the second half, then. Makes perfect sense. The kind of sense like ditching smallball entirely even though, prior to tonight’s tilt, for the scant few lineup combinations that were a net positive, most of them featured (Strike up the band, kids. Bob’s going to belt out his favorite tune) Melo at the Four.


Your eyes ain’t lying, they’re actually winning with Stoudemire at center as long as they spread the floor. There’s really no point in giving extended minutes to either Quincy Acy or Jason Smith. The former did a better job than I thought closing out on Frye and snaggled a few nice offensive rebounds, but then he too disappeared in the second half. Just gone. Vanished like Pinochet’s goons dragged him off to some subterranean gulag. As for the latter, playing Jason Smith is like trying to use a can opener to unscrew a lightbulb. He does one thing and one thing only: open a freaking can of soup when you’re too lazy or despondent to actually prepare a half decent meal for yourself.

Instead you’re sitting alone in a shoddy, ill-lit kitchen eating preservative- nitrate- and sodium-laden sustenance, and you’re kicking your own ass for not dragging said bedraggled ass to the store to make something, anything other than this tepid bowl of over-salted nothing. Peak Fisher tonight? Putting Campbell’s Creamy 15-20 Foot Jumpshot With Noodles in the game to sub for Melo after picking up a fifth foul midway through the fourth quarter.

Anyone who’s watched this Island of Misfit Toys of a roster could rattle off the bulk of the evening’s events even if he or she had smartly done something other than watch basketball tonight. There was the usual terrible perimeter defense, which begat wide-open threes and dump off passes for dunks. They’d shoot a bewildering number of long twos, and hack like fiends until their opponent built up an insurmountable advantage at the charity stripe which begat a furious but ultimately futile comeback. Vucevic would generally have his way with any supposed “big” that was assigned to guard him, whether it was by out-quicking Sam Dalembert or plowing through Amar’e, and some Magic Kingdom’er would get the full FARTDOG treatment. While we’re here, there’s nothing sadder that watching Sam creakily try to pick up a loose ball. It’s like the orange grove scene in The Godfather right before Brando collapses.

Yes, you can read all the wise words from the Zen Daddy about process and development, or even believe it when he says, “I see growth in this team, and I’m optimistic. It’s not always the final score; it’s sometimes how you play.”

This is all good and true, but the dirty little remora clinging to the big ol’ shark of wisdom is that doing that work and learning those habits is a goddamn grind. You know, I was in an AA meeting earlier today, and it was making me grind my teeth down to the nubbin, just because it was a meeting filled with heartwarming stories of redemption and personal growth, and I was feeling shitty and didn’t want to hear about anyone else’s happiness and/or personal enlightenment. So I said as much, “Fuck you. I resent your joy. It’s like you’re all holding massive candles to my face, just so my darkness looks even more pitch-black in comparison.”

And of course they all smiled and laughed, and clapped, because, well, people in meetings do that, because they’ve all been in a ditch of despair and anger and resentment and frustration at one point or another.

I mention all this because, yes, there will be a time when watching the Knicks is a pleasant experience again. In fact, this misery is a necessary step if they are ever going to get to a better place. But it doesn’t change the fact that it sucks right now, and if you want to glower at people that root for a winning team, go right ahead. They’ve been here too.

A few fun things, before we pack up our troubles in a bindle and go freighthopping with the other NBA hoboes.

Vintage STAT!

Sad JR.

Shump smashing!

That’s not much fun, is it? Sorry about that. It was that kind of game. The Mormon Improvisers are up next on Friday, along with Robert Randoph, the Angel of Death. Like Beckett said, “The end is in the beginning, and yet you go on.” Go Knicks. Go on, Knicks.

Liked it? Take a second to support Robert Silverman on Patreon!

Robert Silverman

Hey, did you know that in addition to banging the keys here and occasionally for the NY Times and at ESPN, Robert is a playwright, an actor and a wand'ring mendicant/gadfly? He also once wrestled a bear...and lost.

44 thoughts to “Magic 97, Knicks 95”

  1. omg we suck. 14 free throws for evan fornier. he couldn’t even start for France, which is smaller than Orlando. Orlando contains within itself a fake france, where even evan fornier can’t get 14 free throws.

  2. Good stuff, Robert.

    Yeah, this team…man, this team…I was already depressed about the future of the team (Melo re-signing for the max was just killer) but I thought they’d at least be halfway decent this season (hell, I thought they’d split these first 8 games and not go 2-6). Calderon will obviously help but, well, he won’t help that much. I’m actually sort of looking forward to seeing Bargs, if only for the laugh factor.

  3. @2 why do you say that Calderon won’t help much. The team consistently trots out JR Smith and Shumpert As the two primary ball handlers. Also Isn’t calderon one of the best three point shooters in NBA history? The defense sucks tho

  4. If you can’t handle the Magic, at home, when they’re on the back end of a back-to-back, you best hope your next game is against the ’93 Mavericks.

  5. The next five for the Knicks better produce a win or two:

    vs Jazz
    vs Nuggets
    @ Bucks
    @ Wolves
    vs Sixers

    Because after that, the next 5 weeks are harsh:

    @ Rockets
    @ Mavs
    @ Thunder
    vs Miami
    vs Nets
    vs Cavs
    @ Hornets
    vs Blazers
    @ Pelicans
    @ Spurs
    @ Celtics
    vs Raptors
    vs Mavericks
    @ Bulls
    vs Suns
    @ Raptors
    vs Wizards
    @ Kings
    @ Blazers

    That is 20 straight games against teams that either made the playoffs last or are going to make the playoffs this year (with the lone exception of 1 road game vs the Celtics).

    Could this team be 6-28 going into the New Year??

  6. @2 why do you say that Calderon won’t help much.

    This question was answered later in your comment by…

    The defense sucks tho

    Calderon will help, but he certainly won’t help their biggest issue, which is their awful defense. Hell, he might actually hurt the defense, which sounds impossible but it might be true.

  7. Calderon will help, but he certainly won’t help their biggest issue, which is their awful defense. Hell, he might actually hurt the defense, which sounds impossible but it might be true.

    Calderon’s outside shooting might make Fisher not to rely so much on Jason Smith. OTOH, Bargnani is returning too…

  8. Was at the game with my wife, the part she liked most was Celebrity Row (Kate Upton, Amanda Sygfried, Taylor Swift, etc.)

    I thought the game was lost on 2 fronts:

    Shump’s first Q defense was putrid. He overhelped and let Fornier get all kinds of confidence. He let Fornier go left at will, breaking down the interior D. He committed two dumb fouls that haunted him later in the game.

    If TH2 and Jason Smith can’t hit wide-open 18-footers, they are huge detriments since they can’t do anything else. They are both as one-dimensional as Novak, only he was at least consistent on offense.

    Also, Melo seems like something is physically bothering him. He is wincing and looking out of sorts in the same way he has in the past before a nagging injury was revealed.

  9. Inspired by a Thomas B. post in game thread, this hypothetical conversation reflects the frustration some of you may have concerning Fish’s lineups:

    Who played at the 3 last night?
    At the 3.
    Are you deaf, who played at the 3 last night?
    Not Who, Wear.
    @!$% It’s early, I don’t have time for this, gotta get ready for work.
    Not Early, Wear!

  10. Watching Jason Smith try to make a simple pass – any pass – out of the foul line/circle area is truly frightening.

  11. Shump’s first Q defense was putrid. He overhelped and let Fornier get all kinds of confidence. He let Fornier go left at will, breaking down the interior D. He committed two dumb fouls that haunted him later in the game

    Ive been noticing this as well. As nice as Shumpy’s offense has been , he consistently gives it back on defense.

  12. I’m really curious as to what kind of contract Amare gets for next season. He really is noticeable more active crashing the boards this season and his rebounding has been Aldrichesque so far. You have to think his scoring efficiency will improve a bit over the season, to at least be average, and likely slightly better than that. If he stays healthy, and keeps his rebounding up, then someone would definitely pay him more than veterans minimum, right? Or is he just too big of an injury risk?

  13. Shump has got to stop fouling, no doubt about that. It seems like the vast majority of his fouls come from completely unnecessary reaches for steals – as he becomes a more valuable offensive player he’s going to need to realize that staying on the court is more valuable than trying to make a miracle play. Maybe next time just keep Fournier in front of you and then you won’t have to reach in?

    I’m starting to worry about Fish a little bit. Right now I think he might be putting up a 0 WAMW (Wins Above Mike Woodson) season, which is pretty unacceptable. His rotation choices have been mostly inexplicable to this point. You can say “tanking” but tanking doesn’t explain why Early is basically taking a DNP-CD after playing important minutes last game, or why Wear is suddenly back in the rotation (although he looks terrified out there), or why THJ played 0 first half minutes and 18 second half minutes (after starting the last couple), or why Acy is starting again after being out of the rotation. There’s no method to this madness. And the last play was a full Woodson (you never go full Woodson). After three games I thought Fish was looking like a pretty big upgrade. I’m significantly less convinced now.

    Positive takeaway is that Melo looked a lot more Melo like despite the foul trouble, so hopefully that slump is fully in the rearview mirror.

    Have we had any update on Calderon recently? I remember when it was just precautionary when he was removed from a preaseason game. Those were the good times.

  14. The Sixers have November 22nd circled on their calendars as the day they can actually win a basketball game.

  15. The Knicks are dead last in the NBA– 30th out of 30– in both offensive FT/FGA and defensive FT/FGA. That’s almost kind of impressive when you think about it. In an average game the Knicks’ opponents shoot 28 free throws and the Knicks shoot 15. Thirteen extra free throws for the opponent are baked into the cake on a nightly basis. Last night it was a 32-14 edge to Orlando, a team that itself ranks 28th in offensive FT/FGA.

    I blame Taylor Swift.

  16. with no makeup.

    Uh…..what? Saying she’s wearing no makeup there is like saying this Knicks team has no issues.

  17. The Knicks are dead last in the NBA– 30th out of 30– in both offensive FT/FGA and defensive FT/FGA.

    Looking at Phil’s Laker teams, they were really good at generating FTs when they had Shaq. The Pau teams were basically middle of the pack. We just don’t have players who generate FTs.

  18. We just don’t have players who generate FTs.

    I disagree…..Shump, JR and Amare should be parading to the line. Melo should also be up there. JR and shump need to stop meandering around the 3pt line and attack the rack

  19. Some, but not all of the FT disparity is in the 6-8 FTs the opponent takes when they are fouled to stop the clock in the last minute or so.

  20. there is no evidence suggesting shump should be getting free throws. His handle is AWFUL for a guard. That one time he dropped paul pierce was the only time ive ever seen him to a crossover that worked. Guy can only drive in clear straight lines — he’s better off as a cutter. Lack of handle also dooms him in transition. I forget the stat, in one of herring’s articles, but shump just loses the ball for no reason quite often.

    JR will only get FTs if he drives, which is not gonna happen since he’s lost in this offense and apparently has free reign to just dribble and chuck so long as he’s with the bench unit

    **reminisces about that 2 month pre-6MOY award where JR went to the FT line 7+ times a game**

  21. Nice writeup Bob. There’s only one way to go this season if we have an objective other than tanking (personally I favor tanking) and that’s to outscore the opponents. We’re always gonna be crap on D so let’s optimize our O and be a fun team to watch again. Trash the Triangle or at least put it on ice until next season when we have a post-up big. Calderon/Shump/JR/Melo/Amare lineup is the way to go. That’s right Jowles and DRed – S-P-A-C-I-N-G. Calderon/Amare PnRs, SMOY JR attacking the rim again. Sub in Dalembert/Cole at the 5, Larkin at the 1 (spacing would help him too in driving), Early/Timmy at wings.

  22. Terrible defense and an offense that mainly generates 18-foot jumpers for Jason Smith is a big part of what we do here. We’re not gonna kick terrible defense and our Jason Smith 18-foot jumper oriented offense to the curb. The East is big, man. At the end of the day.

  23. I don’t think Fisher’s rotations are to blame. All the starting line up churn reminds me of the Larry Brown days, where he had many many line up changes too. He didn’t have personnel who were consistently reasonable starters. This team also just don’t have enough good two way personnel. Our starting point guard is Shane Larkin, our power forwards are Acy and Jason Smith, who have their good points and are cheap, but aren’t average level NBA players (Larkin might get better with experience). Our center is Dalembert, who is probably an average level NBA player. I like Shump, but as a two guard he’s probably NBA average at best. Only Carmelo is above average. It’s hard to win like that and particularly hard with a team with a lot of new faces and a new system to learn.

  24. But the Magic were able to win like that.

    Well, somebody has to win. Otherwise, both teams would have lost last night.

  25. Our biggest problem this year is how bad Carmelo’s been. Jason Smith is playing too much and rebounding too little. Hardaway still can’t play defense at all, can’t rebound. On the plus side, he has shown some passing ability this season. I would still dump him in a second if I got a reasonable trade offer.

    Getting Calderon back and having Melo rediscover his touch would make this team a lot better. Larkin has played pretty well considering he’s our 3rd string point guard. Amare is rebounding his ass off. I am confident we’re going to get better unless Bargs. And we should really find a few more minutes for Cole, but I’m otherwise okay with Fish trying out a lot of different lineups.

  26. SS, obviously, but there are 3 guys on the Knicks with a WS/48 above average-Amare, Shump, and Cole. Amare gives some of that back on D (that play last night where he stood in the lane motionless while staring at Channing Frye as he slowly strolled down the lane and dunked needs to be made into a gif), and Cole doesn’t play, so I’m not sure how much a set lineup would really help.

  27. But the Magic were able to win like that.

    Well, somebody has to win. Otherwise, both teams would have lost last night.

    Yes, exactly. We are competitive but not better than some of the worst teams in the league at the moment.

  28. Our biggest problem this year is how bad Carmelo’s been. Jason Smith is playing too much and rebounding too little.

    I think Melo costs us 2-3 games def vs Wash and Detroit and Maybe BK. I think you were engaging in a bit of hyperbole when you said he was one of the worst players in the league yesterday. Hes been bad for his standards shooting(Somehow he is shooting better from 2 and 3 than James Harden), but 21 5 4 is not one of the worst players in the league. Jason Smith is streaky….when his shot is off get him da fuq out lol. The defense is by far the number one culprit.

  29. Derek Fisher was probably thinking 3 seconds is a long time, he could have subbed and made that shot

  30. Melo is not one of the worst players in the league. But he’s been playing like one. 21 points with a sub .500 TS sucks real bad. There are 3 guys who have played more than 270 minutes this season with a lower TS than Melo, and only Josh Smith is anywhere near his usage. I have faith in his shooting coming back, but if you’re wondering why we’ve been so bad, Melo is a big part of the answer.

    The assists have been nice, though.

  31. Apparently, Bargs practiced this morning. It’s about to get a lot worse, people.

    Losing is losing, and we’ve been doing that without Bargs. Maybe we lose at home to Orlando by 12 instead of 2, but it all counts the same. So, will it get worse? I disagree, but I can see the point. I’m not saying it’s a positive thing, but it’s not like we’ve got anything going that Bargs is going to ruin anyway.

  32. To add to what Kahzny is saying, if we’re going to suck anyway I’d rather suck with Bargs – he’s always good for 1-2 laugh out loud moments per game, he generate’s funny GIFs, he gives me somewhere to direct my ire, and most importantly, if we’re going to suck we should suck as hard as possible (#1 pick is probably out of reach, but top-5 is in play I think). Bring on the Bargs!

  33. Wait you mean to tell me that Bargs did not change his number to 14 this year? Who the heck is that out there playing?

  34. I’m looking forward to seeing Bargnani play. He’s probably going to play at the 4 instead of at the 5 and will be in a different role and system than what Woodson asked him to do. That’s what some posters expected from Woodson last year, but didn’t get to see. I think it will be interesting to watch. And it’s very hard for me to believe he will be substantially worse than Jason Smith, or that we will suddenly be even less competitive with the Orlando’s of the NBA. So even if we keep losing, there will be some interest in the games that wasn’t there before.

  35. When everyone is healthy you have a shot of lineups like:

    Calderon, TH2, Melo, Bargs, Stoudemire.

    It’s probably too harsh on Melo to say that lineup might contain the worst defender in the league at every position. Just as damning: That would make Melo by far the best defender on the floor for the Knicks.

Comments are closed.