The Knicks didn't have Jason Kidd when it was their turn to beat up on the Orlando Magic. No glue player for Mike Woodson, but it hardly mattered by the time the Knicks started making three-pointers at the Garden in the final 12 minutes as if it was November all over again.

Who knew that Kidd would assume such a vital role for the Knicks, but that's how it's unfolded for the future Hall of Famer in the first 43 games of the season.

But on Wednesday night, Kidd had to sit out the Knicks' 113-97 victory with a bad back. That hardly leveled the playing field. For that to happen, you'd also need to sit Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Amar'e Stoudemire.

But the Magic, coming off a 20-point loss in Brooklyn the other night, wasn't so lucky in losing for the 18th time in its last 20 games. Not that the Knicks deserve any big cheers for this win.

"Not good," was how Woodson summed up his team's defense.

He was just warming up.

"Everybody is running pick-and-rolls,'' he said. "But we're not steering the ball where we want it to go. We had big-time breakdowns."

But it's not as if Woodson's team was playing the other team from Florida, which had its way across the East River with the Nets. The post-Dwight Howard Magic only needs a couple of difference-makers.

Yet the Knicks continued the defensive malaise that has been killing them ever since they were 18-5. If they didn't make seven of their 14 threes in the final quarter and finally cool off Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick, they could have been staring at their worst loss of the season.

The Magic's starting backcourt conspired for 43 points on 16-for-26 shooting in the first three quarters, but went 1-of-5 for only seven points in the fourth, with Nelson getting shut out.

"They made some adjustments and took some of the things away from us that we were doing," Nelson said.

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