Howard Simmons/New York Daily News
Carmelo Anthony drops 20 points and grabs 11 rebounds in a 121-83 win over the Magic.
Call them the 12 games of Christmas. The suddenly surging Knicks don’t face another team that began play Friday with a record above .500 until Oklahoma City comes to town on Dec. 25.
The Knicks have gone from laughingstock to back-to-back laughers in two short nights, earning their second consecutive convincing win following a nine-game losing streak, 121-83, over overmatched Orlando at the Garden.
Carmelo Anthony led the way with 20 points and 11 rebounds – despite sitting out the fourth quarter for the second night in a row — while Andrea Bargnani scored 17 and Raymond Felton added 14 points and five assists as the Knicks posted consecutive wins for the first time this season.
Howard Simmons/New York Daily News
J.R. Smith forces up a shot as Victor Oladipo defends him.
Iman Shumpert (10 points) was one of four other Knicks to score in double-digits — including a high-flying, right-handed dunk as they pulled away during a 30-15 third quarter.
J.R. Smith drained five of the Knicks’ 17 three-pointers and finished with 17, while Metta World Peace returned to the rotation in place of resting Amar’e Stoudemire and contributed 12. Arron Afflalo led Orlando with 20 points, with rookie Victor Oladipo netting 17.
The Knicks previously had split the first two out of this very favorable dozen-game stretch — losing at home to New Orleans last week before finally halting their free fall Thursday night with a 30-point blowout of the even more hapless Nets in Brooklyn.
Embattled coach Mike Woodson continues to stress that his 5-13 team – which avoided a franchise-record eight-game home losing skid Friday — somehow is just 2 ½ games behind first-place Boston (9-12) in the ragged Atlantic Division.
Iman Shumpert flys toward the basket as he throws down on the Magic.
“It’s crazy, when you look at it, it really is, because nobody is tearing it up,” Woodson said before the game. “We’re sitting here today 2 1/2 games out of first place, so as a coach my job is to preach to our team that it’s still wide open and we’ve got a chance to go back and get another division title. The only way it’s going to happen is we’ve got to believe it and we’ve got to demonstrate it on the floor.
“But you look at some of the other divisions and there’s seven, eight, nine games that teams are out of first place. That’s an uphill climb.”
Clearly, wins against the beaten-up Nets and the Magic (6-13) don’t completely erase the problems that have plagued the Knicks for weeks. But as crazy as Woodson’s assessment seems, his team actually could tie Boston in the loss column if they defeat the Celtics at the Garden in a Sunday matinee.
“We just had an opportunity to watch tape from (Thursday) night and we just hope that we can learn from it. It was all positive stuff today. We haven’t had very many tapes like that season where we can really focus on all the positive things,” Woodson said. “It looked like the old Knicks again.”
The Knicks hadn’t won at the Garden since defeating Milwaukee – the NBA’s worst team (3-15) — in the season opener, and they spotted Orlando an early 10-point lead. But Anthony’s 13 first-half points and seven three-pointers in the second quarter – including two each by Smith, World Peace and Tim Hardaway Jr. (15 points) — brought the Knicks to intermission up by five, 59-54.
The Knicks sport one of the NBA’s worst point differentials in third quarters this season, but they clamped down defensively to open the second half and doubled up the Magic 30-15 in the session to extend the cushion to 20. And two straight threes by Hardaway Jr. late in garbage time briefly pushed the lead to 40.