Knicks DEFENSE & Precious Achiuwa Muffle Magic. NY 98 Orlando 74

The Knicks finally beat the Orlando Magic after 3 losses to them thus far this season — applying start-to-finish DEFENSE to muffle the Magic, 98-74 on a Friday night at Madison Square Garden.

NY came out from the start with a message to make against this Orlando team which was red hot — having won 5 in a row and 8 of the last 9, and had just jumped ahead of the Knicks in the Eastern Conference standings by a half game.

The Knicks — decimated by injuries the last month — came in having lost 4 of their last 6, and 5 of their last 8, including their last 5 games on a Friday night. Friday night Knicks.

But the Knicks are gradually getting healthy, with Jalen Brunson back for this game after having missed the last 2 with a knee injury.

And Brunson was red hot from the start, hitting spot-up jumpers in the lane and raining 3’s. Isaiah Hartenstein looked healthier too — he and Josh Hart dominated the early going on both ends of the court as NY jumped out to a 21-9 lead.

But the Knick of Knicks for this night was Precious Achiuwa — who did a JOB defensively on Orlando superstar Paolo Banchero, and ripped down rebounds all night, blocked shots, and carried a big load on offense up front too — stuffing the boxscore with 15 points, 14 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 5 blocks, and a +25.

Afterwards, Precious, who grew up in the Bronx, said “Just being able to come back home and represent the city means a lot to me. I just want to say thank you, New York City – I love you guys.”

And not to forget Miles McBride, who played a big-time game on both ends as well. Then also Donte DiVincenzo, Jericho Sims, and the rest of the Knicks who played a frenetic defense all night.

NY held Orlando to 74 points — the lowest score any team has had in the NBA this season.

Thibs’ Thoughts

“I thought we played well from start to finish,” said coach Tom Thibodeau afterwards. “So I think that was important. Our defense was really good. The rebounding was good. They’re a terrific team; you can’t let your guard down at all. They have a number of guys who can beat you off the dribble. And so you’re challenged on every possession. We kept building the lead and that was a testament to our guys.”

“Josh was fantastic,” added Thibs. “Jalen was great. Precious gave us really, really good minutes. Isaiah’s defense to start the game was top of the line; that’s as active as he’s been in quite a while — so it was great to see. Donte was Donte — hustle plays; flying around; really active, and we needed that. Deuce gave us really quality minutes — when Jalen was out too.”

Brunson had 26 pts on 11-19 shooting (3-5 from 3). Hart had 19 pts on 8-12 shooting.

NY improves to 37-26, and leap frogs Orlando back into 4th place in the East. Orlando drops to 37-27.

1. Knicks Lay Down Message from the Start

The Knicks came out looking to make a statement against Orlando, who they had lost to the 3 previous times the teams played this year.

When asked if the Knicks came out with something to prove, Deuce McBride said “Yes absolutely. We know we were down in the series, 0-3. They’ve been more physical than us. So we just wanted to bring the fight to them and I think we did tonite.”


Orlando, coached by Jamahl Mosley, plays a very, very physical defensive game, and has a lot of height, with the 7-foot Wagner brothers — Franz Wagner and Moritz Wagner — plus 6’10 Wendell Carter Jr at center, the athletic 6’10 beast Jonathan Isaac as first man off the bench, and of course their superstar Paolo Banchero at 6’10. Then there’s defensive stalwart Jalen Suggs at the guard (out injured for this game), and Knick killer Cole Anthony off the bench. Throw in old man Joe Ingles off the bench with his heads-up 6’9 inside game and his 3’s and Orlando is a load to handle.

Knicks Come Out Swinging

But the Knicks are pretty good too and they came out taking it to Orlando from the start.

MSG was rocking already.

  • Brunson fed DiVincenzo who fed Hart who drove baseline and fed Hartenstein coming down the pike for a drive-and-1 and NY was up 8-0. Pretty play of the night.
  • Banchero made a drive-and-1 to put Orlando on the board but Brunson immediately answered, penetrating and popping a pullup for a 10-3 NY lead.
  • Hartenstein fed DiVincenzo for a corner 3 and NY was up 13-3. Magic timeout.
  • Out of the timeout, Orlando’s Wendell Carter scored but Brunson answered with a pullup. Banchero started to score but Brunson started cooking from 3 — hitting two straight 3’s and NY was up 21-9.

Orlando Counter Punches

  • Consecutive 3’s by Carter and Banchero pulled Orlando back within 6 — but Precious Achiuwa answered with a bucket inside.
  • Isaac scored inside and Banchero started to go to work with a couple of buckets to pull Orlando within 6.

NY Counter-Counter Punches

  • But Deuce McBride hit two huge 3’s late in the quarter to give NY a 31-23 lead at the end of 1.

2. NY Extends Lead Late in the 2nd Quarter

And then came the 2nd quarter. More physical play and tough defense on both sides.

DiVincenzo opened up the quarter with a 3 and Josh Hart hit a step-back and NY extended their lead to 13.

But Orlando hung tough — Jonathan Isaac, Franz Wagner, and Cole Anthony providing offense. Bogan Bogdonavic gave the Knicks buckets. Alec Burks didn’t — he took 2 shots and missed them both and played his Dean Martin defense — good but with a seeming nonchalance compared to the frenetic D of the other Knicks. Burks did not play in the 2nd half — only getting 5 minutes.

Achiuwa Takes Over

With 7 minutes left in the quarter Precious Achiuwa came in for Bogdanovic, NY up 9. Achiuwa immediately had a jumpshot blocked by Banchero but then made up for it — blocking a Franz Wagner drive, then later blocking a Banchero drive inside.

Achiuwa was doing a JOB on Banchero — defending him close and altering his jumpshots, forcing misses.

Achiuwa drove inside for scores. Achiuwa ripped down rebounds. Achiuwa fed Brunson for a score.

An Achiuwa drive ended the half with NY up 16.

3. NY Goes Up by 26 in the 3rd Quarter

The 3rd quarter was more Achiuwa. Drives inside, rebounds and then he sharp-shooted a 3 from the corner to put NY up 17 with 8:22 left.

Hartenstein was banging inside; Brunson was scoring; Josh Hart was everywhere — hitting his shot too. Hart hit a 3 and NY was up 20 at 65-45.

On one play Achiuwa missed a shot inside, grabbed his own rebound, missed again inside, grabbed his own rebound again, and fed DiVincenzo for a 3 — NY up 74-52.

“How bad do you want to win. Precious Achiuwa bringing great effort/activity and his work on the offensive glass here leads to a Donte DiVincenzo 3 ball,” noted NBA Analyst Ross Kreines. “Extra effort plays and extra possessions usually decide games. Be willing to outwork all.”

ThenΒ Jericho Sims came and started balling. NY went up by 26.

4. NY Does Not Let Up in the 4th — Blowout

NY did not let up in the 4th — Orlando never got closer that 18 points down on a Banchero 3 but Brunson immediately answered with a deuce and a 3 and NY was back up 23.

NY kept the peddle to the metal all period — Josh Hart playing torrid D and hitting drives and 3’s — no let up against a team that had pounded the Knicks with physical play all year.

NY sent a message.


The Boxscore


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