Magic point guard Jameer Nelson netted 17 points, eight rebounds, and 10 assists, just missing the first triple-double of his 10-year career.
Orlando got off to a respectable enough start, building a 16-9 lead after a Tobias Harris breakaway layup off a Nelson feed. That basket was the Magic's seventh in their first eight tries, and all five Orlando starters had between two and four points: balance keyed that strong start.
But over the next three minutes, the Knicks went on an 11-3 run to take their first lead of the game, a lead they'd never relinquish. The Magic did close to within two before the period closed, with Davis executing a dribble-handoff to Afflalo along the right baseline for an easy score.
That play is about where the good plays ended for the Magic.
New York blitzed the home team, 36-14, in the second period as the Magic shot 4-of-17 from the floor, with four turnovers. While it's true that Orlando missed its share of open looks, it's also true that the Magic had no answer for the Knicks' offense anyway. Smith dialed himself in, going 4-of-5 from the floor for 11 points with some adventurous and creative work off the dribble, almost matching Orlando's scoring total himself.
The Knicks enjoyed separate scoring runs of 10-0 and 9-0 in the second quarter. A particular concern for Orlando was just getting into its sets: the Knicks' aggressive traps forced the Magic to start things almost 40 feet from the basket, and on a few possessions the shot clock had ticked below 10 seconds without the ball even breaking the three-point arc.
Sum it up and Orlando trailed by a 65-41 margin at halftime, with the 65 points it allowed representing a season-worst.
A renewed emphasis on challenging the Knicks' defense off the dribble helped Orlando close to within 17 in the opening minutes of the third quarter, with Afflalo finding Harris on a backdoor cut for a dunk to open the scoring. Even when Orlando didn't manage to convert, as a Harris-to-Nikola Vucevic alley-oop layup went awry--they at least demonstrated their willingness to be on the attack and to apply pressure to New York's defense.
Another interior score, this one by Vucevic, cut New York's lead to 12 points with 4:49 to go in the third, forcing a Knicks timeout. The visitors' execution left plenty to be desired, with Raymond Felton picking up his fourth foul while trying to screen Nelson. On the Magic's ensuing possession, Glen Davis absorbed a hip check from Beno Udrih while he drilled a jumper from just inside the foul line. The free throw brought Orlando to within single-digits of the Knicks for the first time in nearly 13 minutes of game time.
The Knicks opened the third quarter shooting 4-of-14 from the floor with five turnovers as the Magic made their run. Making matters worse for the Knicks is that Anthony sustained a sprained left ankle while battling for a rebound early in the period and would not be available to return.
Smith seemed eager, as one might imagine, to take the lead of New York's offense with Anthony out of the picture. The infamously trigger-happy swingman hit two long deuces in the final 63 seconds of the period, the second of which put New York back up by 10 points. But Nelson answered for Orlando by drawing into the teeth of the Knicks' defense on the next play and initiating contact with Amar'e Stoudemire, drawing the foul and draining both foul shots.
The period ended with New York clinging to a lead of just eight points.
They cut that lead to just three with 9:07 to play in regulation as Harris drove the lane from the right side and dished to an open Nelson on the left wing. Nelson made the extra pass to Afflalo in the left corner and he drilled the shot as Nelson pumped his fists. One possession later, utility big man Jason Maxiell--playing for the first time in 12 days--tipped in a missed Davis putback to bring Orlando to within one.
Though a triple from Iman Shumpert put the Knicks up six moments later, a pair of hoops from Davis whittled to lead back to two. Magic coach Jacque Vaughn pulled Davis at the next time out to give him some rest--he'd played 35 minutes at his typically high energy level and looked sluggish trying to keep up with Andrea Bargnani on one recent close-out.
With Davis resting, the Magic went to a Maxiell post-up against Bargnani coming out of the timeout, but his hook missed the mark.
The Magic had the chance to tie the game on a Harris fast-break layup, but the retreating Smith blocked the shot at the rim and New York rebounded. It appeared that Smith may have grazed Harris across the arm on the play, but no foul was called.
Bargnani drilled jumpers on the Knicks' next two possessions ot put them up by four, and Harris fumbled a Vucevic pass out of bounds with 2:12 to go. Shumpert redeemed himself for missing a corner three by stripping Nelson and going the other way to put New York up six with an easy layup at the 1:38 mark.
A triple from Afflalo with 21 seconds to play brought Orlando to within three points. The teams exchanged free throws the rest of the way to provide the final margin.