All season long, the Orlando Magic’s best attribute was their resilience. They have endured awful losses, injuries to their starting backcourt and the constant speculation about Dwight Howard’s future and they still have compiled the third-best record in the Eastern Conference.
On Wednesday night, that toughness disappeared. The New York Knicks threw haymaker after haymaker, and the Magic folded.
Fueled by Carmelo Anthony’s scoring and passing and some awful Magic turnovers, the Knicks embarrassed the Magic 108-86 at Madison Square Garden. Making it even worse: The Knicks did it without injured power forward Amar’e Stoudemire and injured point guard Jeremy Lin.
New York went on a 12-0 run in the second quarter and on a 21-0 run during a 6-minute, 21-second stretch in the third quarter to seize control of the game.
When the 21-0 run ended, with 2:44 remaining in the third quarter, the Knicks led by 39 points.
Anthony finished with 25 points on 9-of-15 shooting and six assists.
Jameer Nelson was Orlando’s lone bright spot on the offensive end of the court, finishing with 17 points and four assists.
Dwight Howard scored 12 points and collected five rebounds.
Starters Ryan Anderson, Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson combined to score 13 points on 5-of-16 shooting.
The loss ended the Magic’s winning streak at three games. With their win, the Knicks improved to 8-1 under interim coach Mike Woodson.
During the 21-0 Knicks run in the third period, the Magic turned the ball over six times, the Knicks made nine of 11 shots and Howard committed three personal fouls in a span of 1 minute, 31 seconds.
But the Knicks started to take control during the latter stages of the second quarter, scoring 12 consecutive points thanks to strong ball movement, Anthony’s scoring and some 3-pointers to take a 52-38 lead.
Baron Davis jump-started the run with a layup, and he was followed by a 3 from the left corner by wide-open Iman Shumpert and Anthony, who split a double team for a layup.
Turkoglu, Jason Richardson, Quentin Richardson and Earl Clark all took turns trying to guard Anthony, and they all encountered problems.
Steve Novak also bedeviled the Magic. The sharpshooting reserve entered the night shooting 48.1 percent from 3-point range, and yet he repeatedly found himself open on the perimeter throughout the first half.
Meanwhile, the Magic (32-19) could not take advantage of the opportunities the Knicks (26-25) gave them early.
They made just nine of their 17 free-throw attempts.
Glen Davis missed a pair of foul shots. Nelson missed two of three. And J.J. Redick, the team’s best free-throw shooter, could not convert a foul shot on a technical by Tyson Chandler with 3:07 remaining in the half.
Nelson was the primary reason why the first half wasn’t a blowout. He made five of his first six shots and finished the first quarter with 11 points and added three more in the second.
Nelson was given a gift with 6.5 seconds left in the first half when he was fouled as he was dribbling to set up an end-of-the-half shot. Nelson made one of two to cut the Knicks lead to 54-41.
But on New York’s ensuing possession, Novak swished a trey as time expired to put New York up 57-41.
The onslaught was on.
And it only got worse.