Studs and Duds from the Knicks’ loss to the Orlando Magic

New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) shoots the ball over Orlando Magic guard Anthony Black (0) during the second quarter at KIA Center
Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

In what seemed like a throwback affair, the New York Knicks were defeated by the Orlando Magic. Both teams combined for 13 threes the entire game as the Knicks made a solid comeback down the stretch. The first half of a back-to-back was a sensational performance from Julius Randle but he was the only one that made his presence known on this occasion as the Knicks fell 117–108

Studs: Julius Randle drops 38 points

Julius Randle went 0/4 from three, but you couldn’t tell as he accumulated 38 points 12 rebounds, and six assists to lead all scorers in the game. Julius Randle was an unstoppable force in Orlando, having his way with all the defense sent his way.

Shooting 64% from the field with 16 points in the first quarter, Randle never took his foot off the gas, as his game has shown increasing maturation this season. In his last six contests, Randle is averaging 27.6 points and 9.8 rebounds on 50.7% from the field.

The best aspect of this is his consistency, and expect Julius Randle to follow up this performance well against the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night. 

Duds: Missing pillars

Aside from Randle’s outstanding game, the play of Brunson and Barrett left much to be desired in Orlando. In the first half, Brunson went 1/5 while Barrett shot 2/9 to combine for 11 points through two quarters. This lack of production from the pillars of the Knicks left New York in a tremendous hole, down 11 at the half and fighting back the entire second half.

Jalen Brunson went 12/12 from the free throw line was his saving grace, but in crunch time he wasn’t getting the calls that set him up earlier in the contest. 

Finishing the game with 20 points, seven rebounds, and eight assists on 26% from the field, expect better from Brunson going head-to-head with Tyrese Haliburton Saturday night. 

Duds: The Knicks’ role players need to be better

Throughout the contest, and especially the final five minutes Knicks faithful insisted that the refs were favoring the Magic. Yet, a lack of execution from Knicks rolemen in comparison to Orlando’s. Donte DiVincenzo, Quentin Grimes, and Josh Hart combined for only 10 points on 32 percent from the field.

For the Magic role players, Jalen Suggs, Cole Anthony, and Mo Wagner combined for 37 points on 38% from the floor. In the final five and a half minutes of the game, Orlando shot 15 free throws to the Knicks five, but by then it was New York attempting to catch up as they had been the entire contest.

To expect calls means a deliberation on shot attempts, and the refs were not favoring New York, given the poor performances from various players. 

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Takeawys from the Knicks’ loss to the Magic

The defense of the Knicks has been ranked 13th in the NBA over the last ten games. To get back to that coveted top five that began the season, the Knicks must lock in on a two-way consistency. Players like RJ Barrett thrive in transition off of turnovers, that is why his best games are usually New York’s best defensive efforts.

Julius Randle was phenomenal and continues to play like the All-NBA caliber forward he is, but being healthy for the playoffs is critical as Randle sets the tone for the Knicks. The final game of 2023 is against the 17th-ranked defense in the Indiana Pacers.

With narratives being such a large part of the NBA, expect a better game from Jalen Brunson and more consistency from Julius Randle.