The 14-30 Magic scored only 77 points on Monday in a loss to the Nets, but tonight -- even without their injured leading scorer, Arron Afflalo (16.7 points per game) -- they put up 51 first-half points. Once again, the Knicks' pick-and-roll defense was nonexistent as the Magic's guards combined for 47 points. Yes, 92.2 percent of the points came from Orlando's backcourt.
Here are three main observations at the half:
Magic point guard Jameer Nelson scored 19 points and shooting guard J.J. Redick had 17 points on perfect 6-for-6 shooting (two 3-pointers) in the first quarter. Felton was a step slow reacting to screens and didn't fight hard enough to get around them. Also, on back-to-back possessions, Felton got burned one-on-one against Nelson, who had a stop-on-a-dime jump shot and then a blow-by drive. Woodson has mentioned Felton needs to improve his lateral movement since returning.
As for Shumpert, he looked dazed and confused trying to keep up with Redick, who was active all over the court on pick-and-rolls, cross screens and even with clever head fakes to get in the lane for floaters. Shumpert, like Felton, appeared late reacting, which made his ability to play defense even more challenging because he then had big bodies to work around.
Once again, for the third straight game, an opposing point guard had a big first quarter against the Knicks. And this time, so did the other team's 2-guard. Felton, Shumpert & Co. really have to tighten things up on the perimeter looking ahead, especially to prevent Tyson Chandler and Amar'e Stoudemire from having to switch off their man and defend all the quick guards in the NBA. Stoudemire is the real issue. He needs to be in position down low to play his best defense. Everywhere else on the court, he is a liability.
2. Felton's playmaking. As some consolation for what happened in the opening period, Felton had 12 first-quarter points. In the first half, he connected with Chandler twice off the pick-and-roll. One time, it resulted in an alley-oop finish, where they had been excelling before Felton went down on Christmas Day. Overall, the Knicks' ball movement was better tonight, but they struggled in missing several wide-open baseline 3-pointers. They shot 5-for-15 (33.3 percent) from downtown.
3. Chandler's low-post game. While his offensive game is mostly suited to lob finishes and putbacks, he can expand his repertoire when the team's offense is struggling. Sometimes this season, we've seen him hit jump shots and even turnaround jumpers. Tonight in the first quarter, before Stoudemire checked in, the Knicks went to him down low and he finished with two short jump hooks.
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