Bullock Gets Last Laugh. 4 Reasons Why Knicks 94 Orlando 93 on 3-18-21

Reggie Bullock got the last laugh. He lost his starter’s role to start the game, and answered by exploding for 20 points off the bench, but in the waning minute of this game, he missed a key jumper with 50 seconds left that would have put the game away, and then lost the ball to Orlando with 12 seconds left and the Knicks up 94-93. Orlando trapped him and forced a jump ball, which he lost to Evan Fournier.

This horrible turn of events made it Orlando ball with 12 seconds left and a chance to win — but after a time out, Reggie Bullock leaped up and intercepted the Orlando inbounds pass to Evan Fournier to get the last laugh and ballgame for the Knicks.

Besides that, here’s how this game went down:

1. Knicks Blew Big 3rd-Quarter Lead to “Good” Orlando Team

Orlando came in 13-26 and Knick fans were expecting an easy win. And New York extended to a 15-pt lead with 3 minutes left in the 3rd quarter. An easy win was on tap.

But this Orlando team has that poor record because they have suffered injuries. The Magic are well coached by Steve Clifford. And this was the first game where they had most of their key players back, including Aaron Gordon.

Orlando surged back to only trail by 6 at the end of 3, and when Evan Fournier hit a jumper with 9:54 left in the 4th, Orlando led 75-74. The Knicks and Orlando seesawed back and forth the rest of the game.

“They are a really well-coached team; a great execution team, said coach Tom Thibodeau afterwards. “This was their first game with a majority of their guys back; they still have Ross out. They play hard as heck on every position. It’s good to scratch out a win.”

2. Knicks Dynamic Duo Vs Orlando Stars

Nikola Vucevic, Fournier, and Gordon led Orlando. The Knicks countered with Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, Alec Burks, and Bullocks. And Frank Ntilikina. New York is clearly short-handed with Mitchell Robinson, Derrick Rose, and Elfrid Payton all out.

Without a point guard, Thibodeau started Frank Ntilikina at that position, and to get more ball handling, started Alec Burks which is what sent Bullock to the bench, after being a starter throughout the season so far.

Ntilikina was oh-fer in this game until the 3rd quarter, when at the most unlikely time — he rose like a Phoenix and started knocking down 3’s — two in a row — then aggressively drove the lane for a slam and one. It woke the heck out of Knicks Twitter, and led the Knicks to that short-lived 15-point lead.

“Frank played a very good game all around,” said Thibodeau. He’s taking the right shots. As long as he does that, we believe in the process of him working on those shots, and when he’s open shoot ’em well; some are going to go, some won’t. But just have the courage to continue taking them, if you’re wide open.”

3. Randle Triple Double — 17 Assists. 17 Assists.

Down the stretch in the 4th it was less Barrett and more Bullock and Burks, with Randle distributing the ball. Randle had another stellar game — 18 pts, 10 rebounds, and 17 assists.

17 assists.

“I was just reading the game,” said Randle afterwards. “I’ll pick my spots and if they come and double, or if they collapse, I was going to find my teammates, like I’ve been doing all year. I knew coming in, Orlando is a big overall team, they collapse the paint, and the kick-outs were going to be there all game.”

It was Randle’s 3rd triple double of the season, the first Knicks since Michael Ray Richardson to get three triple doubles in a season.

4. Knicks Defense & Drive-Pass-Pass Offense

When asked after the game if the Knicks’ Defense was their identity and made them different than other NBA teams, who are all looking to score as much as possible, Thibodeau agreed. “We have two of the elite rim protectors in Mitch and Nerlens (Noel), and when you throw Taj into the mix — Taj has great feet — he’s one of the best pick-and-roll defenders in the league and is a great low post defender. We have good length and guys who can get into the ball. Our versatility and size allows us to do switching. If we defend, rebound, and keep our turnovers down, we can be in position to win against anybody. And that’s what we’re trying to hang our hat on.”

“And our guys have worked really hard at the shooting piece of it,” added Thibodeau. “We’re starting to knock down 3’s on a regular basis. We’re making the right plays; the right rim reads; when there’s a collapse, pull it out, make the extra pass, there’s a lot of drive-pass-pass possessions, and that also allows us to get our defense set.”

The Boxscore


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