Knicks unable to put the Magic away, lose 98-94

NBA: Orlando Magic at New York Knicks
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

While the Knicks entered the fourth quarter with a lead in hand, they were unable to hang on and close out the Magic, as their offense sputtered and they dropped a close game at Madison Square Garden. It wasn’t surprising that New York would take a step back on offense, as Jalen Brunson was out again, and given their lack of point guard depth, they would go into this contest short-handed. Orlando would be without Franz Wagner, so it’s not as if they weren’t dealing with some limitations offensively as well.

With an inability to hit clutch shots and free throws late in the game, the Knicks dropped this back-and-forth contest 98-94, just their second loss in 2024.

Knicks Struggle To Get Offense Going in Frustrating Loss

NBA: Orlando Magic at New York Knicks
Jan 15, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) dribbles while defended by Orlando Magic forward Chuma Okeke (3) during the first half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Knicks would quickly see Julius Randle deal with an injury that seemed to limit him all game, but regardless, he did only convert five of his 18 attempts from the field for 15 points. He led the team in assists (5) with zero turnovers, adding six rebounds as well and going +2 while on the court. It was an off game for the two-time All-NBA forward, and hopefully, he doesn’t have that injury linger beyond his ugly showing this afternoon, especially while Jalen Brunson is out.

A bright spot for the Knicks was Miles McBride, who has continued to shine in his new role, leading the team with 20 points and draining four of his 10 attempts from downtown, continuing his development as a shooter. He also played excellent defense, nabbing two steals and a block as well, but the issue with the starting lineup came in their lack of shot creation, especially on their bench.

NBA: Orlando Magic at New York Knicks
Jan 15, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guard Miles McBride (2) dribbles in front of Orlando Magic guard Jalen Suggs (4) and guard Caleb Houstan (2) during the first half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Not only is Miles McBride already not a primary ballhandler the way that Jalen Brunson is, but he also wasn’t with the second unit as much since he had to be the starter today. OG Anunoby was also strong on offense, hitting three of his four threes for 17 points, and his defense also helped the team stay in the game, as the Magic struggled with efficiency and were still held to under 100 points.

Isaiah Hartenstein continued to be a rebound machine, bringing down 12 boards with seven points and three assists, and continues to hold the fort down as the team’s starting center. Donte DiVincenzo added six boards and four assists with 15 points, with a team-best +9 on the afternoon, although he struggled with efficiency from downtown. The problem with the Knicks wasn’t their starting lineup though, as despite a subpar performance from Randle, they kept the Knicks in the lead at various points in the game, but the bench couldn’t hold their own at all.

The Knicks will need to add a shot creator for the bench, as everyone who didn’t start went for a negative +/- on the night, with Josh Hart (-13) standing out for issues on both sides of the floor that have become more apparent in the past few games. It was expected that the bench would take a step back without Immanuel Quickley, but Josh Hart has taken a step back in the past few weeks when the team needed him to step up, and they’ll need him to look more like his 2023 self if they want to avoid getting run off the court by other bench units.

Houston will come into town to take on the Knicks on Wednesday, as they’ll look to get back into the win column and potentially get Jalen Brunson back from his calf contustion.