In their first four games, the New York Knicks surprised many by consistently performing above preseason expectations and jumping out to an unbeaten start.
Another night and another victory later, the Knicks’ breakout beginning doesn’t seem to have an end in sight.
Carmelo Anthony scored 25 points, J. R. Smith and Raymond Felton each added 21, and the New York Knicks held off the Orlando Magic 99-89 Tuesday night to improve to 5-0.
The victory extended New York’s NBA-best start. The Knicks have won their first five games for the first time since opening the 1993-94 season 7-0 on their way to the NBA finals. The Knicks remain the league’s only unbeaten team.
“Defense, we buckled down,” Anthony said. “We kind of slowed them down, kept them off the glass rebounding. Once we had a chance to rebound the basketball, get out and make some shots, we didn’t turn back from there.”
J.J. Redick scored 18 points and Arron Afflalo added 13 for the Magic, who were stunted by 20 turnovers that led to 24 New York points. Orlando dropped its fifth consecutive game and continues to struggle without starters Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu.
“You have to want to win more, simple as that,” Afflalo said. “There’s not one man on this team that’s going to do it, (we) pretty much have to want it more.”
New York coach Mike Woodson has made no secret of the fact that for the Knicks to continue their recent output long-term, keeping his older team well-rested will be a necessity.
A three-day rest following their dominating win over Dallas on Friday was perfect timing for a Knicks squad that played its first three games in just four nights.
It showed against and Orlando team whose younger players were fearless attacking New York early on.
But so much youth on the floor also gave way to some careless mistakes late in the second half. Orlando pulled to 82-80 before the Knicks went on a 13-4 spurt to take a 95-84 lead with 2:36 to play and put the game away.
New York led by just a point at the break, Knicks coach Mike Woodson said that kind of effort wasn’t there early.
“We weren’t playing hard enough,” Woodson said. “You can’t just roll the ball out and think because their record indicates that they may not be good or they’re struggling as a team — any team can beat you in this league … We got a few stops, and scored a bucket and we were able to secure the win. But it was a tough victory tonight.”
The Knicks will have another break from game action Wednesday before playing at San Antonio Thursday night.
Despite not scoring more than 75 points in none of their previous three losses, the Magic kept pace with the Knicks — who came in as one of the league’s top scoring teams.
The Magic’s younger players were right in the middle of the action, with rookies Maurice Harkless and Andrew Nicholson knocking down several big shots and making key defensive plays in the third quarter as the Knicks inched back in front and took a one-point lead into the final period.
The Knicks traded the lead with the Magic at the start of the fourth, with Orlando continually able to slip inside the paint.
But along with Anthony’s big night, the Knicks were also able to sustain the Magic’s efforts as Smith continued his hot streak from the 3-point line, connecting on both of his attempts. He is 13 of 18 overall for the season from behind the arc.
Even with the loss, Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said there still some positives for a team that piecing together lineups at the moment.
“We can’t afford to make mistakes, but for me at the end of this game I was pretty proud of our guys and their effort tonight,” Vaughn said. “That’s a good ball club on both ends of the floor and we made them earn a win tonight.”
Trailing 35-25 midway through the second quarter, the Magic used a 16-4 run to move ahead 41-39. Orlando carried that momentum into as 53-49 halftime lead.
In his fourth game of the season since returning to action from offseason sports hernia surgery, Harkless provided a lift off the bench with 10 points in the half.
It helped offset another big scoring half by Anthony, who topped the Knicks with 16 first-half points.
The Magic also outrebounded the Knicks 25-16 in the opening 24 minutes, while getting 34 points in the paint against a larger Knicks front court.
Orlando maintained its edge on the boards but didn’t get nearly as many second-chance opportunities in the second half.
Smith said the Knicks are enjoying where they’re at right now.
“It’s great. It’s a great feeling,” he said. “We want to keep it going. So we can’t get too lackadaisical like we did in that first half.”
Notes: Nelson missed his sixth straight game with a strained right hamstring and groin. …The game was stopped for about 10 minutes between the first and second quarter after Jamie Woode, a former college cheerleader and Magic Stunt Team member, fell during a routine and was wheeled off the floor on a stretcher. She was transferred to a nearby hospital where she was breathing on her own and moving her extremities, according to paramedics who attended to her.
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Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.