New York Knicks: What We Learned From The Loss To The Orlando Magic

Jan 2, 2017; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) looks on during the second half against the Orlando Magic at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks returned home for a clash with the Orlando Magic. What did we learn from the grueling loss to the Magic at Madison Square Garden?

Since beginning the 2016-17 NBA regular season at 16-13, the New York Knicks have lost five consecutive games. The losing streak continued on Tuesday, Jan. 3, when New York fell 115-103 to a seemingly overmatched opponent.

Following the disappointing loss to the Orlando Magic, the Knicks have been forced to go back to the drawing board.

New York struggled to generate efficient offense and was even worse on the defensive end of the floor. It was yet another dreadful showing by a Knicks team that had the look of a potential contender mere days before Christmas.

Having lost five straight games and fallen to 16-18 on the season, however, it’s become abundantly clear that New York hasn’t yet achieved legitimacy.

Perhaps it’s an overreaction, but significant information was acquired during the loss to Orlando. It sparked critical post-game comments and caused many to question whether or not this is the right team to move forward with.

The question is: what did we learn from the New York Knicks’ 12-point loss to the Orlando Magic at Madison Square Garden?

Jan 2, 2017; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks guard Brandon Jennings (3) drives to the basket defended by Orlando Magic guard Elfrid Payton (4) during the second half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

5. Brandon Jennings Shows Up When He’s Needed

For the second consecutive game, sixth man Brandon Jennings stepped up with a tremendous performance. With the Knicks’ defense sputtering again, Jennings took it upon himself to make sure the offense stayed in the hunt.

If nothing else can be taken as a reason for optimism, then it’s becoming clear that Jennings is the game changer that Phil Jackson signed him to be.

Jennings stepped up with 12 points, four assists, three rebounds, and an offensive board in 24 minutes for the Knicks. He shot 4-of-9 from the field, 2-of-5 from 3-point range, and 2-of-3 from the free throw line on another productive evening.

On a night where no one else seemed to bring it for four quarters, Jennings had the intensity and tenacity that the Knicks have been desperately longing for.

Jennings had a recent cold scoring stretch of four games, but he managed to facilitate when his shot wasn’t falling. The issue that he has is not knowing when to go from a scorer’s mentality to that of a facilitator with a team that isn’t supporting him in an adequate manner.

The Knicks haven’t given fans many reasons for optimism, but Jennings continues to be a beacon of hope.

Jan 2, 2017; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks guard Derrick Rose (25) drives to the basket past Orlando Magic guard D.J. Augustin (14) during the second half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

4. Derrick Rose Is Explosive

The 2016-17 NBA regular season is as much about what Derrick Rose is physically capable of as it is the numbers he can produce on a consistent basis. He’s endured an overwhelming slate of injuries during his NBA career and must take precautions in his gradual return to form.

Against the Orlando Magic, Rose displayed a level of explosiveness that few expected to see from him in 2016-17.

Rose threw down two dunks against the New Orleans Pelicans, although one was waved off due to an offensive foul on Joakim Noah. Against the Magic, he continued to display confidence in his ability to play above the rim.

Rose finished with a two-handed dunk on his first flush of the evening and powered home a one-handed finish late in the fourth quarter.

Rose finished with 18 points, four assists, and three rebounds in 28 minutes of action against the Magic. He shot 8-of-15 from the field and had no trouble whatsoever with getting into the paint for acrobatic shot attempts.

Whether or not he rediscovers the level of explosiveness he possessed during his 2011 MVP campaign, Rose is still one of the best athletes in the NBA.

Dec 22, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks power forward Kristaps Porzingis (6) leaves the game after sustaining a leg injury against the Orlando Magic during the fourth quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

3. The Knicks Need Kristaps Porzingis

The New York Knicks played a second consecutive game without starting power forward Kristaps Porzingis. Porzingis missed the loss to the Houston Rockets due to soreness in his left achilles tendon and sat for the clash with the Orlando Magic, as well.

Though Porzingis may not have made the difference between winning and losing, it was clear how badly the Knicks miss his presence.

During the loss to Orlando, New York allowed 46 points in the paint and converted just eight 3-point field goals. Porzingis’ presence was missed as both a 3-point shooter and a rim protector, as well as a post player who can end scoring droughts.

The Knicks clearly need Porzingis, but the best way to address that issue is to ensure he’ll be available long-term.

Porzingis leads the Knicks with 1.9 blocks per game and is No. 2 with averages of 20.1 points and 7.9 rebounds per contest. For as valuable as his production and presence may be, New York shouldn’t do anything to make it worse.

Whenever it is that Porzingis is truly ready to return to the lineup, the Knicks will be a better team because of it.

Jan 2, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Orlando Magic center Bismack Biyombo (11) slam dunks the ball during the first quarter against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

2. The Defense Is Atrocious

The New York Knicks are one of the most abysmal defensive teams in the NBA. At 16-18 through 34 games, the Knicks have struggled to prevent much of anything as it pertains to executing on the defensive end of the floor.

Against the Orlando Magic, the Knicks allowed more than 115 points for the 10th time this season—an unforgivably high number through 34 games.

New York falls to 4-14 when it allows at least 105 points. That gives the Knicks a record of 12-4 when it allows fewer than 105 points, which results in an obvious determination: this team would win if it weren’t purely atrocious on defense.

As pointed out by Tommy Beer of Basketball Insiders, the Knicks’ rotations continue to be lazy and ineffective.

That level of effort and intensity simply will not suffice.

New York is allowing averages of 108.5 points per game and 107.2 points per 100 possessions. Both of those numbers all but guarantee that the Knicks are going to lose more games than they win.

There are other areas in which the Knicks must improve, namely ball movement, but it all starts on the defensive end of the floor.

Jan 2, 2017; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek looks on with his team in the final seconds of the second half loss against the Orlando Magic at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

1. Jeff Hornacek Is Fed Up

Jeff Hornacek is a mild-mannered individual whose ability to maintain his composure has been critical to team success. Over the past few games, however, Hornacek simply hasn’t been able to keep his cool—and with good reason.

After being called for a technical foul for coming to the defense of his team against the Atlanta Hawks, Hornacek chose to be critical of his team following the loss to the Orlando Magic.

Though some may question why Hornacek would make the comments he did, it’s hard to blame him for—or disagree with—what he said.

As previously noted, the Knicks are 4-14 when they allow at least 105 points and 12-4 when they allow fewer than 105. New York is also 15-7 when it dishes out at least 20 assists and 1-11 when it fails to, which includes its inability to do so against Orlando.

It’s plays like this that have Hornacek so frustrated.

If the Knicks aren’t going to play with the necessary level of effort on defense, then Hornacek appears to be prepared to make changes. He likely has the support of team president Phil Jackson in doing so.

The only question is whether the Knicks will make a change from within or go out of house to do so.

What we learned from the loss to the Orlando Magic is simple: something needs to change in New York.

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