ORLANDO, Fla. -- Carmelo Anthony and Mike Woodson accomplished something with the Knicks Tuesday night that hasn't been done since Patrick Ewing was their star player and Pat Riley their coach.
But it ended up being harder than most probably expected.
The Knicks are 5-0, matching their second-best start in franchise history. They also won their first five games in 1969-70 and 1993-94 -- making the NBA Finals in both seasons. The 1993-94 team set the Knicks' all-time mark, winning its first seven games.
"It's a great feeling," said J.R. Smith, who led the Knicks' second-half charge, scoring 16 of his 21 points after halftime.
He also hit both of his three-point attempts and is 13-for-18 (72.2 percent) this season.
"We can't get too lackadaisical like we did in that first half," Smith added. "I think being 4-0 coming into the game had a lot to do with it, expecting teams to roll over without a few key guys, so we can't let that happen."
The Knicks, who played just once in the previous seven days, didn't defend for the first three quarters or have the same urgency they displayed in the first four games. But the Knicks defended when it mattered. They held the Magic to five field goals in the fourth quarter, forced them into seven turnovers and outscored them 20-9 over the final 8:44 of the game.
"We had to really pick it up in the fourth quarter," said Raymond Felton, who scored 21 points for the NBA's only unbeaten team, which continues this three-game trip in San Antonio tomorrow night.
Anthony was played physically by Glen "Big Baby" Davis, and saw various defenders all night, but still led everyone with 25 points.
If the Knicks lost they would have been kicking themselves. Dwight Howard's forced exit from Orlando has left the Magic high and dry and with a roster of mostly hard-to-recognize players.
J.J. Redick led seven Orlando players in double figures with 18 points, Arron Afflalo added 13 and E'Twaun Moore and Nikola Vucevic each had 12. Rookie Moe Harkless (St. John's) scored a career-high 10 points.
At halftime, Woodson lit into his players about their defense and lack of hustle. The Magic led 53-49. Orlando averaged 72.3 points the previous three games.
The Knicks showed a heightened awareness that they needed to lock down and lock in after being down 80-79 with 10:35 left. They held the Magic scoreless for nearly four minutes. Jason Kidd scored five points during a 7-0 run that made it 86-80. After a Redick layup, Anthony scored the next two baskets, including a three, to make it 91-82 with 5:05 left. The Knicks took their biggest lead, 97-84, on a Smith jumper with 1:29 left.
"We weren't playing hard enough," Woodson said. "Any team can beat you in this league. They played hard and were able to force a good game until we were able to break it open. It was a tough victory."
But Anthony didn't care much for the historical significance of it.
"It's only five games into the season," Anthony said. "We're going to take it one game at a time and enjoy it. As long as we're having fun playing basketball whether we win or lose we can accept it."
Iman on target for January.Iman Shumpert is doing more power work and conditioning, and pointing to January for his return from left knee surgery. "They keep saying I'm on target so I'm happy," Shumpert said. "As long as there's no setbacks I think I'll be fine."