Severely Shorthanded Knicks Lose Again. Orlando 118 NY 100

Jericho Sims dunking on Orlando. Photo courtesy NY Knicks.

With even more players out injured than the last game — the severely shorthanded Knicks just didn’t have enough umph to beat Orlando, losing 118-100 in Orlando on a Wednesday night, the last game before the All Star break.

Bojan Bogdanovic — just acquired — joined the injured list as did Donte DiVincenzo, and of course the Knicks remained without Julius Randle, OG Anunoby, Mitchell Robinson, and Isaiah Hartenstein.

That left it up to Precious Achiuwa and Jericho Sims up front, with Josh Hart, Alec Burks, and their All Star driving force Jalen Brunson. That team played even with Orlando — but the Knick bench besides Miles McBride consisted of 38-yr-old Taj Gibson, and newbies Jacob Toppin and Charlie Brown Jr.— and they just didn’t have enough to keep up with Orlando’s reserves.

“I thought we played really well the 1st quarter,” said coach Tom Thibodeau afterwards. “And then the start of the 2nd we gave up that lead very quickly. The defense wasn’t very good. I thought we fought in the 3rd, and they went on that run to start the 4th.”

NY falls to 33-22. Orlando improves to 30-25. The week-long All Star break starts now — and the Knicks certainly need that time to get their players rested and healthy.

1. Knick Starters Jump on Top of Orlando in 1st Quarter

Orlando is led by All Star Paolo Banchero (pronounced Bankero) with 7 footer Franz Wagner and 6’11 Wendell Carter Jr up front, 6’8 Caleb Houston and 6’7 Anthony Black in the backcourt — a big starting team.

That gives them defense but not a lot of playmaking and the Knicks’ Jalen Brunson came out on fire, scoring inside and on pullups time and time again.

Precious Achiuwa was Brunson’s able scoring sidekick, and Miles McBride came off the bench and hit a drive and a 3 at the end of the quarter — helping NY jump out to a 36-27 lead.

2. Orlando Takes Control at Start of 2nd Quarter

Alec Burks hit a 3 at start of the 2nd quarter to give NY a 12-point lead.

But then Jalen Brunson went out of the game for rest and things collapsed for NY. Orlando’s bench of  7-footer Moritz Wagner, 6’10 Joe Ingles, and point guard Cole Anthony came in and Orlando made a quick 19-2 run to take a 46-41 lead.

Ingles was playing point forward, distributing and hitting 3’s, and the Wagner brothers were scoring inside. Cole Anthony added quickness and penetration.

Jalen Brunson and Precious Achiuwa came back in the game and NY started to fight back.

But Paolo Banchero kept nailing jumpers — hitting three straight 3’s, a drive, and a dunk late in the quarter to keep NY at bay.

3. Knicks Hang Tough in the 3rd

Down 10 at the half, the undermanned Knicks hung tough in the 3rd — staying within 10 to 14 points throughout the quarter.

Brunson and Precious Achiuwa continued to be the main offensive weapons for NY. Precious Achiuwa also played big underneath with rebounds and defense.

Precious lit up the boxscore with with 23 points on 8-16 shooting, with 14 rebounds, and 5 assists in 43 minutes.

Thibs on Precious

“He’s making great effort — not just the initial effort it’s the 2nd and 3rd effort as well,” said Thibs afterwards about Precious. “And he’s going on every shot. He’s getting into a good rhythm; people talk about rhythm shooting but there’s rhythm rebounding too. He’s reading the ball really well, and making great effort. There were obviously things we liked about him, that’s why we traded for him. But he’s shown us a lot and it’s given us a lot of versality. We have size now at the 4 or the 5 — he can play the 4 or the 5 and play it well. He has great feet. So that’s a big plus for us.”

4. Orlando Puts Game Away with Run at Start of 4th

But Orlando put the game away at start of the 4th — they just had too much length for the undermanned Knicks to handle — as brothers Franz and Mortiz Wagner continued to attack the basket, aided by Jonathan Isaac.

When Banchero hit a 3 with 7:51 left, Orlando was up 19, at 102-83. Cole Anthony followed with a drive-and-1 and Orlando was up 22, and ballgame.

5. Burks = “Dean Martin Defense” But Takes Doubles off Brunson

Alec Burks gives NY another scorer which takes the heat off Brunson, and is an able defender as we’ve seen in the past — but he plays “Dean Martin Defense” — smooth and suave and possibly effective when he gets more in rhythm with this team — but does not give the in-your-face intensity defense Knick fans have become used to with this team. Burks was 5-16 (2-6 from 3) for 13 pts and a game low -28 in this game.

Burks is in primarily for his offense to take heat off Brunson with all the injuries.

“I thought our starters played well,” explained Thibs afterwards. “With Alec, you can run the offense thru him and let Jalen come off screens or play off the catch, where they can’t load up on him quite as much.”

6. Jacob the Other Toppin with a Career Game

Jacob Toppin finished with 11 pts on 4-7 shooting (1-3 from 3) with 4 rebounds in 17 minutes. It was an opportune end of the 1st half of the season for him and the NBA — as he is headed to the All Star Game to compete in the Slam Dunk contest. When he was originally announced as a participant in the Dunk Contest a few weeks ago, he had not yet scored a point in the NBA.

7. Brunson vs Banchero

The night was highlighted by the mano-a-mano duel between All Stars Brunson and Banchero. They both lit up the scoreboard:

  • Banchero finished with 36 points on 15-20 shooting (6-10 from 3) with 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and a steal.
  • Brunson had 33 points on 11-21 shooting and 5-8 from 3 with 6 assists.

But Banchero had more healthy players to help him.

The Boxscore

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