NEW YORK -- After the Knicks' 102-93 loss to the Magic Monday afternoon, Mike D'Antoni sounded like an NFL defensive coordinator.
"We missed a lot of coverages today," he said. "We didn't either switch, we switched late, we didn't talk."
The draw-in-the-defense ability of Dwight Howard was part of it, but the Knicks did not rotate well to jump out on to the Magic shooters early enough. The NBA comes down to split-second delayed reads, and even some of the game's power forwards can shoot from distance.
Case in point: Ryan Anderson was 7-for-13 from downtown, as he finished with a career-high 30 points. In fact, the Magic were 17-for 35 from beyond the arc (48.6 percent), tying the most threes made by an opponent in Knicks' history. NBA defenses always work in dangerous territories having to guard the best of the best, but being that the Knicks are still a work in progress on that end, they still have extra sludge to step through.
"I thought we did a good job of containing [Howard]," Tyson Chandler said in the postgame locker room. "I just think we got separated from shooters too much. We let them get too many good looks. That was the game plan, to stay connected with the 3-point shooters. But we just gave a little too much space."
Offensively, the Knicks should steal a major cue from the Magic, as Amare Stoudemire pointed out after the game. He commended them for their ball movement, which led to their season-high 17 threes.
"That's how you play the game. When you move the ball the way they did tonight, you're accustomed to getting open shots," he said. "And tonight, they did a great job of moving the ball and also knocking down those shots. You've got to give those guys respect on how they played tonight. They played great."
One positive defensive note for New York yesterday was their 13 steals, compared to Orlando's three. Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and Iman Shumpert, who's tied with Mavericks point guard Jason Kidd for third in the league in steals per game (2.3), had three swipes each. Overall, the Knicks have been doing a solid job of swarming the ball-handler in face-up situations and playing passing lanes well. Currently, they're fifth in the league in steals per game (9.8). They've just been losing traction with their team defense.
But as Stoudemire said after the game, "it's somewhat early in the season," so let's see if the team can get it together defensively as a collective unit sooner rather than later. This is an important and winnable home stretch for the Knicks, as they're playing Phoenix, Milwaukee and Denver next, before they go on a challenging four-games-in-five-nights road trip next week.
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