WHAT IT MEANS: Maybe the Knicks learned their lesson.
On Tuesday, the 'Bockers blew a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter and fell to the Pacers. On Thursday, they again had a 17-point lead in the fourth, but they held on, beating Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic 96-80.
The Knicks have won 10 of 13 under coach Mike Woodson and are 4-2 without Amare Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin. They lead the Milwaukee Bucks by 1-1/2 games for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Bucks were idle Thursday.
Of course, the Knicks beat a team in disarray on Thursday night. Earlier in the day, Magic coach Stan Van Gundy told reporters that Howard wanted him fired. On Thursday, Howard played like a guy who wanted his coach gone. He didn't have a field goal until three seconds were left in the third quarter and finished with eight points and eight rebounds. Orlando has lost five straight.
THE GOOD: Whatever Woodson said to J.R. Smith on Wednesday seems to have worked. According to reports, Woodson talked to Smith about being more professional after he was tossed from Tuesday's game for a flagrant foul on Leandro Barbosa.
Smith responded on Thursday with a 15-point night. He went 3-for-4 from beyond the arc and handed out nine assists, providing offensive firepower that the depleted Knicks sorely needed. Carmelo Anthony finished with 19 points and Baron Davis had a nice floor game with five points, five assists, one turnover and two steals.
Toney Douglas, who started the season as New York's starting point guard but was buried on the bench after Lin emerged, had 15 points on 7-for-12 shooting with six assists and five rebounds.
THE BAD: The Knicks came out slow on offense, missing 11 of their first 13 shots. They went away from the ball movement-based offense that had worked well for them earlier in the season, instead relying on isolation. But Smith helped remedy that by leading New York on a 14-3 run in the second quarter.
The Knicks allowed Orlando to shoot 37.5 percent from beyond the arc. But overall, the Magic shot 41 percent from the floor and scored just 80 points.
BOLD PLAY OF THE GAME: At the end of the first quarter, Smith missed a layup that caromed high off of the front rim. Iman Shumpert crashed hard and came in untouched, getting to the ball about a foot and a half above the rim and slamming it through for an electric putback dunk.
WHAT'S NEXT: The Knicks will return to New York late Thursday night or early Friday morning and then have two days to rest or practice before playing the Chicago Bulls at home on Sunday. Then they travel to Chicago on Tuesday and play a pivotal game against Milwaukee on Wednesday. Milwaukee leads the season series 2-1. The Knicks have a much more difficult schedule the rest of the way. Click here for schedule details.
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