Resounding wins by the Knicks in their first two games of the season surely led to some daydreaming by championship-starved fans eager to experience New York’s first championship run since 1973.
On Sunday night, though, the Knicks received a stern reminder of how far they still have to go to become a title contender.
The Knicks will look to bounce back from a disappointing loss Tuesday night, when they are scheduled to host the Philadelphia 76ers in a battle of longtime division rivals.
Both teams were off Monday after playing Sunday night, when the host Knicks fell to the Orlando Magic 110-104 and the visiting 76ers beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, 115-103.
The loss for the Knicks — which cost them a chance to start 3-0 for the first time since 2012-13 — was particularly jarring considering the defensive breakdowns that occurred just two days after they led by as many as 34 points and hit a franchise-record 24 3-pointers in a 121-96 win over the Magic in Orlando.
The Knicks appeared to be in control for much of Sunday night, but they squandered a 13-point first-half lead and allowed the Magic to overcome a nine-point third-quarter deficit by surrendering a game-ending 39-24 run. Orlando’s Terrence Ross scored all 22 of his points in the fourth quarter — the most fourth-quarter points by a player in franchise history.
“We created a problem long before (the fourth quarter), just understanding what goes into winning,” Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We knew they would play with intensity, and we didn’t. The fourth quarter has to be our best quarter, and it wasn’t tonight.”
New York snapped a seven-year playoff drought last season, when it allowed a 104.7 points per game, fewest in the NBA.
“When you take shortcuts, the results are never going to be good,” Thibodeau said.
The 76ers have navigated some potentially treacherous elements in starting 2-1 without 6-foot-11 star Ben Simmons, who demanded a trade over the summer after struggling in a seven-game second-round loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
Seth Curry scored 28 points Sunday, and Joel Embiid is averaging 21.0 points per game. Four-time NBA rebounding champion Andre Drummond collected 27 rebounds in the first two games before sitting out Sunday with a right ankle injury.
Team president Daryl Morey expressed hope Sunday that Simmons might soon rejoin the 76ers, who earned the top seed in the Eastern Conference last season. Simmons returned to the team during training camp but was kicked out of a practice last Tuesday and subsequently suspended one game. Simmons has since reportedly said he is dealing with personal issues as well as a stiff back.
“He spoke to his teammates. Things seem to be moving very much in a positive direction,” Morey said in an interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia before Sunday’s game. “We’re going to provide all the resources and get Ben what he needs and get him out there as soon as we can.”