Knicks

Knicks Drop Below .500 For 1st Time Since November

111-99 Defeat To Magic Makes It 7 Losses In Last 8 Games
Earl Clark #3 of the Orlando Magic dunks against Amar'e Stoudemire #1 of the New York Knicks during a game on March 23, 2011 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Earl Clark #3 of the Orlando Magic dunks against Amar’e Stoudemire #1 of the New York Knicks during a game on March 23, 2011 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (AP) – Dwight Howard caught the ball with a smaller opponent behind him, and a Magic teammate screamed out from the bench, “Too little!”

Yes, the New York Knicks have big problems, and Orlando’s All-Star center is only one of them.

Howard had 33 points and 11 rebounds, and the Magic won their fourth straight and sent the Knicks tumbling below .500 with a 111-99 victory Wednesday night.

Jameer Nelson added 19 points, Hedo Turkoglu had 16 points and 11 rebounds, and Brandon Bass chipped in 15 points for the Magic, who held Amare Stoudemire to his worst game this season and beat the Knicks for the sixth straight time and 13th in the last 15.

“Right now, I understand that team is under a lot of pressure, and sometimes a guy like Amare, he wants to do as much as he can to bring the team out,” Howard said. “I encourage him to stay patient and stick with it.”

Jason Richardson scored nine of his 12 points in the fourth quarter, when the Magic broke away after leading by one after three.

Carmelo Anthony had 24 points and nine assists for the Knicks (35-36), who lost for the seventh time in eight games and are below .500 for the first time since they were 8-9 after losing to Atlanta on Nov. 27.

Exactly a month after Anthony’s much-hyped Knicks debut, New York fell to 7-10 since his acquisition.

“We just need to relax,” Anthony said. “I think it’s, we put too much pressure on ourselves. We’re losing games that we know we should be winning and we’re just putting a lot of pressure on ourselves. I think we’re playing too tense out there on the court, everybody just needs to relax. Just have fun.”

Stoudemire was held to a season-low 13 points, shooting 6 of 20 from the floor.

“Amare’s tired,” Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We’ve worn him down a little bit and it showed tonight.”

Chauncey Billups and Toney Douglas each scored 17 for the Knicks, who have been enjoying their best season in a decade, but it now looks like so many others — with a losing record in late March.

The Knicks blame the difficulties of adjusting to a major trade so late in the season, and a March schedule that has them playing 18 games, with six sets of back-to-backs. They canceled Thursday’s practice following the game.

“I think we’re all somewhat getting the fatigue factor setting in,” Stoudemire said. “It’s been a crazy, crazy month for us so far, a lot of games in few nights. And so we played great in the first half, we applied so much energy, in the second half we just kind of run out a little bit there. But we’ll be OK.”

Howard averaged 27 points and 17 rebounds in the first two meetings this season and was largely unstoppable again in this one. He made 11 of 15 shots and kept New York from getting close down the stretch with some surprisingly strong foul shooting, finishing 11 for 13.

The Magic grabbed the lead for good with a 9-0 run early in the fourth quarter. Gilbert Arenas made a pair of free throws, Richardson made a 3-pointer, and Arenas followed with consecutive buckets to make it 90-82 with 7:55 left.

The Knicks hardly made a dent from there, as they were consistently forced to foul Howard and he kept coming through at the line.

The Knicks once spoke of finishing fifth in the Eastern Conference, but they might be lucky they’ve gone backward to seventh instead. Orlando seems locked into the No. 4 seed, and the Knicks have nobody to defend Howard and are consistently burned by the Magic’s 3-point shooters when they double-team him.

The Knicks started Ronny Turiaf, who gives up an inch and 20 pounds to Howard, at center. Howard wore New York out with 19 points in the second half, when the Knicks shot only 14 of 44 (32 percent).

“We just started pounding the ball inside, playing inside-out,” Howard said. “If they doubled, I tried to make the right pass out. I tried to be very patient down there. Defensively, we did a pretty good job of not fouling and sending them to the line.”

Trailing 59-55 at the half, Orlando turned up the defense in the third, holding the Knicks to 7 of 23 shooting and taking a 79-78 lead to the final period after Nelson’s jumper with 15 seconds remaining.

“We came in at halftime and wrote on the board the things that we thought were important coming into the game,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. “We asked them which of those things they thought we had done hard and well. They didn’t think we’d done any of them hard and well. And so we went out and played harder in the second half. There were no X and O adjustments.”

Notes: The teams meet again here Monday as the makeup for a game that was postponed Nov. 2, after debris fell into the arena during an overnight cleaning of asbestos-related materials. … Former New York Yankees star Bernie Williams, now an accomplished musician, played the national anthem on his guitar. Told before the game that Williams would be performing, Van Gundy, a baseball fan, said he’d prefer to watch Williams play baseball. … The Knicks wore “Nueva York” jerseys as part of the NBA’s “Noche Latina” (Latin night) series.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)