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Knicks hand Magic its season-high fifth straight loss
By Paul Levine Apr 6, 2012, 7:19 GMT
Los Angeles - Storm clouds have rolled in to cover the usually sunny skies in Orlando, and the Magic's struggles continued after Stan Van Gundy confirmed superstar Dwight Howard asked management to fire him as head coach.
Carmelo Anthony scored 19 points, Tyson Chandler had 12 with as many rebounds, and the visiting New York Knicks sent the reeling Magic to its season-high fifth straight loss, 96-80 on Thursday night.
The Knicks took advantage of the off-court distraction to bounce back from Tuesday's meltdown at Indiana after blowing a 15-point fourth quarter cushion.
'Absolutely, you can see it,' Anthony said. 'You still have guys going out there and playing hard, wanting to win the game. But at the end of the day, when there's stuff surrounding the team off the court it can be very distracting.'
Reserves JR Smith and Toney Douglas fired in 15 points apiece for the Knicks (28-27), who hit sizzling 13-of-25 from behind the arc in the blowout that put them one and half games ahead of idle Milwaukee for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with about a dozen games remaining in the regular season.
Jason Richardson scored 16 points but Howard was held to eight - all in the second half for Orlando, which was without star forward Ryan Anderson because of an ankle sprain and lost Hedo Turkoglou in the second quarter with a three-stitch cut below his right eye.
Earlier in the day, Van Gundy told reporters that Howard had asked for his dismissal, though the star centre denied the allegation.
'I know he has,' Van Gundy said. 'That's just the way it is. I've been dealing with that all year. It's not anything real bothersome. You go out and do your job.'
Asked how he knew, Van Gundy replied: 'I was told it was true by people in our management. So, you know, right from the top.'
The Magic couldn't get the job done and continued its longest tailspin since January 2007, before Van Gundy arrived.
'I thought our guys really competed, that wasn't the problem,' Van Gundy said.'We just struggled. We're in a bad time right now. We're not playing well. We've got no rhythm and 11 games left in three weeks.'
Still, Van Gundy is hoeful the Magic can reverse course in time for the playoffs.
'You have to have some faith we can get back to playing the way we were three weeks ago,' he said. 'Everything's changed for the bad, so that's got to be our only focus now.'
Despite the turmoil, Van Gundy expects to finish the season as coach.
'Look, we've been together all year this year,' he said. 'We've been together for five years. So we know each other very well, and Dwight will go out and play, and I'll coach, and that's the understanding. We know that.'
Elsewhere: Chicago Bulls 93, Boston Celtics 86: Luol Deng scored 18 of his 26 points in the second half, and the league-best Bulls minus reigning MVP Derrick Rose for the 12th straight contest because of a right groin strain, snapped their first two-game losing streak of the season by beating the visiting Celtics.
Paul Pierce had 22 points for Boston, which was outscored 55-37 in the second half, and had its Atlantic Division lead cut to one game over idle Philadelphia.
LA Clippers 93, Sacramento Kings 85: Randy Foye scored 20 points, including four free throws in the final 16.5 seconds, and the visiting Clippers held off the Kings for their seventh win in the last eight games.
Isaiah Thomas tossed in 17 points while Jason Thompson finished with 15 and 16 rebounds for the Kings, who have dropped seven of its last eight.
Detroit Pistons 99, Washington Wizards 94: Greg Monroe scored 18 points, Rodney Stuckey added 15 and the Pistons trimmed the visiting Wizards for their third straight win.
John Wall had 28 points with 10 assists for the Wizards, losers of four in a row.
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