The Knicks had once again sputtered at a critical moment, allowing the to turn a tight game into a 102-93 victory Monday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.
They had contained (8 points) but lost track of Ryan Anderson (30 points). They had survived Amar’e Stoudemire’s foul trouble, but the game slipped away when their offense turned to muck.
The Knicks missed their last seven shots and scored only 2 points in the final 3 minutes 27 seconds. Anthony went 0 for 3 with a turnover in that stretch, completing a 9-for-27 day from the field. He finished with a game-high 33 points anyway, hitting 14 of 16 foul shots.
At times, Anthony has saved the Knicks with his individual efforts. On Monday, he was clearly part of the problem, going 5 for 17 in the second half, when the Knicks squandered a 7-point lead.
“A lot of them shots, I know I can make,” he said. “I shoot them shots every day. So I’m not too concerned about that.”
With the offense in disarray, the Knicks (6-7) lost their third straight game, erasing the gains of a four-game winning streak. Anthony was questionable until game time because of a sprained ankle, which had caused him to miss the previous game. He aggravated the injury late in the fourth quarter, with the Knicks trailing by 5 points, when he tripped over the Magic’s Hedo Turkoglu. Though he limped momentarily, Anthony still took the next shot, an errant 3-pointer.
Anthony said his ankle was not an issue, but he conceded that his left wrist — which was also injured last Thursday in Memphis — posed some problems.
“Even though I had two hands on the ball, I was really shooting with one,” he said. “I couldn’t really control the ball.”
As a result, he said, many of his shots were “long, flat.”
“But that’s neither here nor there,” he said. “I’ll get better at that.”
The Knicks also wasted what had been a respectable defensive effort.
With Tyson Chandler as the first line of defense, and a steady stream of double teams, the Knicks held Howard to six field-goal attempts and forced him into six turnovers. He fouled out in the final minute, going scoreless in the fourth quarter.
The focus on Howard came at a cost, as the Knicks were slow to rotate back to the perimeter, allowing the Magic to hit 17 of 35 shots from behind the 3-point arc, tying a Knicks opponents’ record set in 2008. Anderson hit seven 3-pointers, Turkoglu four and J. J. Redick three.
“We missed a lot of coverages,” Coach Mike D’Antoni said, adding: “We have rookies out there that forget what we’re doing — not forget, but just not in tune — and those are just steps we got to take. Over all, we played hard, we played pretty well.”
Orlando (9-3) entered the game as the N.B.A. leader in scoring efficiency, which put the burden on the Knicks to keep pace. But the Knicks have yet to find their offensive stride this season, or a reliable third scorer behind Anthony and Stoudemire. They produced just 14 assists.
The rookie Iman Shumpert returned to the starting point guard role and had 12 points but went 3 for 9 from the field. Toney Douglas needed 12 shots to get 12 points.
And Stoudemire played just 21:54, finishing with 10 points, handicapping the Knicks for most of the day.
“It’s my fault tonight,” Stoudemire said. “We lost the game because I got in foul trouble. It won’t happen again.”
Despite everything, Stoudemire put an imprint on the game, scoring 8 points early in the fourth quarter, capped by a driving dunk that gave the Knicks an 85-83 lead with 7:42 to play. He did not take another shot.
“I figured the fourth quarter is time for me to really dominate,” Stoudemire said. “That’s what I started to do.”
Stoudemire praised the Magic for their ball movement and suggested that the Knicks need to improve theirs. It has been a consistent issue this season.
Anthony’s dominance of the ball is one problem, but it is compounded by a surrounding cast lacking in reliable scorers.
“It’s not like he’s looking around thinking, ‘I need to pass it,’ ” D’Antoni said of Anthony, adding: “We’re just having guys that aren’t being aggressive and not looking. And we’re in a little bit of a quandary offensively. We don’t have a lot of confidence out there. And he’s attacking. He should do that.”
Baron Davis could begin practicing with the Knicks next Monday, and perhaps playing not long after that. Davis, who is recovering from a herniated disk, is running and doing individual basketball drills, working to increase his stamina before being cleared for contact. He will be reassessed by the medical staff later this week. “You don’t know how he’s going to react to contact until he starts doing it,” Coach Mike D’Antoni said Monday. “If it doesn’t set him back, then we’ll throw him into a game.” Because practice time is scant, Davis could join the lineup shortly after he is cleared, which means he could make his Knicks debut by the end of next week. “He’s going to play as soon as he can play,” D’Antoni said.