Knicks stave off fierce Magic rally after Melo injures ankle
The New York Knicks have been looking for any kind of continuity they can find as injuries and losses have continued to pile up this season.
The injury bug isn’t done biting them just yet, but they remained healthy just long enough Monday night to get a much-needed victory.
Carmelo Anthony had 19 points before leaving the game with a sprained left ankle in the third quarter, but the Knicks were able to stave off a fierce charge and hang on for 103-98 victory over the Orlando Magic.
New York led by as many as 25 points before having its lead cut all the way to a point in the fourth quarter. Beno Udrih hit six straight free-throws in the final 26 seconds to help preserve the win, which was the Knicks eighth straight over the Magic.
It also was a big win for embattled Knicks coach Mike Woodson, whose job security has been called into question in recent weeks.
"All teams make runs and they made a helluva run, but I applaud our team because we withstood the run," Woodson said. "We made plays. It was a total team effort. After losing two starters, I applaud our guys."
Along with losing Anthony, the Knicks also saw point guard Raymond Felton go down late in the fourth quarter with a groin injury. He was just making his return Monday after a six-game absence with a strained left hamstring.
Woodson said the status of both players will be evaluated Tuesday. New York plays Oklahoma City on Christmas Day.
J.R. Smith added 18 points and 10 rebounds. Felton had 13 points and four assists before his injury.
Afterward Smith said his team’s injury issues are bothersome as they try to get back their season back on track.
"I’m concerned (about Melo), but I’m not as worried about him as I’m worried about Ray, the way he came back and then to go down again. It’s tough," Smith said. "He’s our point guard, for sure."
Arron Afflalo led Orlando with 26 points. Glen Davis added 20 and Jameer Nelson 17.
The Magic have lost three straight and 11 of their last 13.
Orlando coach Jacque Vaughn applauded his team’s resolve in the second half.
"We responded to their hit in our face," Vaughn said. "It took us a whole half, but then we responded by coming out and realizing that it’s OK to hit first. I think we were the aggressors in the second half."
The Knicks seemed to be cruising in the third quarter with a 25-point lead before Anthony went down with about seven minutes left in the quarter. It helped stretch a Magic 27-8 run that cut New York’s lead to just 76-70. The Knicks carried an 84-76 edge into the fourth, but the Magic kept attacking as New York began to settle for jump shots.
A tip-in by Jason Maxiell cut it all the way down to a point with 8:28 to play in the game, prompting Woodson to call a timeout.
New York responded, and got a mini-spurt that pushed its lead back to 89-83.
It was short-lived, as the Magic got within 91-89 on a jumper by Nelson.
Orlando had a chance to tie it on a fast break following a Knicks’ miss, but Tobias Harris’ layup attempt was blocked by Smith. Felton got tangled up with another player during the play and limped off the floor.
The Knicks steadied, and got a steal and layup by Iman Shumpert that gave them a 97-91 cushion.
"They tightened up once they seen the lead completely evaporate," Afflalo said. "They did a good job of once we cut it to one or two, not allowing us to get over the hump."
Felton made his presence felt in the first few minutes of action with a pair of jumpers and assist on a Tyson Chandler.
It helped provided a jolt for the Knicks, who shot 52 percent in the first half. A big half it turned out the Knicks would need down the stretch.
"(Orlando) played very good in that third quarter," Knicks forward Andrea Bargnani said. "You’ve got to give them credit, they made some very tough shots so they came back. We made the right plus at the end.
"The team was upset when Carmelo went out, but we got over the shock."
Notes: The Magic are now 0-14 this season when an opponent scores 100 or more points. … Anthony picked up his third technical foul of the season for arguing with referee Ed Malloy in the third quarter.