The Magic's trademark skill in the 2016 season has been their active, smothering defense, but on Monday night against the Knicks they had to lean on their offense to get the win in a shootout. Despite 23 points from Carmelo Anthony and 21 from Lance Thomas (on perfect 8-8 shooting), the Magic were able to withstand the Knicks' 51% shooting to get the 107-99 win. The star of the night was Nikola Vucevic, who dropped 26 points, including 18 in the second half, to go with his 9 rebounds. Tobias Harris was a steady scoring presence throughout the game, netting 20 points and 3 steals, including a key one down the stretch to ice the Magic's win.
The Magic and Knicks played each other fairly evenly early on. It's no surprise that Anthony came out scoring early with 7 points in the first, but Robin Lopez was the most efficient player, netting 8 points on 4-4 shooting. Overall, the Knicks shot 50%, but the Magic forced seven turnovers to keep the New York offense in check. Orlando opened up an 8 point lead by the end of the quarter with strong play from the bench. In particular, Andrew Nicholson saw a lot of touches soon after he entered the game, and Aaron Gordon did a good job checking Carmelo with his active defense. Orlando led 29-21 entering the second quarter.
The Knicks put together a small run to narrow the lead soon after, but Orlando's defense kicked back in and prevented easy looks in the halfcourt. The most notable part of the Magic's second quarter may have been Scott Skiles's rotation choices: with Elfrid Payton knocked out of the game with a sore ankle he opted to keep Hezonja in with four of the starters. Hezonja played well as the de facto point guard, handling the ball well, setting up Channing Frye with a 3, and hitting his own shot coming off a screen. Skiles then opted to close out the quarter with Shabazz Napier, who would also start in the second half. New York continued to lean on their superstar, with Carmelo adding 9 more points for the Knicks in the second. The Magic led 52-46 at halftime.
The third quarter is when the Knicks really seemed to find their offensive groove, using their ball movement and running the floor to find good looks. While Melo continued to fill up the box score, it was Lance Thomas that was the big star for the Knicks as they made their push to cut the lead to 2. He was active on both ends of the court and seemed to always make the correct play. Fortunately, the Magic had their own go-to guy in Nikola Vucevic to steady the ship. Vucevic dropped 12 points in the quarter, taking the ball to Robin Lopez on multiple drives in addition to his usual array of jump shots. Napier was also important for the Magic early, especially passing the ball (4 assists in the quarter). The Magic held a 5 point lead, 78-73 entering the final frame.
The first time these two teams met, the Magic did a good job of containing the impact of rookie Kristaps Porzingis, and that was the case for most of the second meeting. However, Porzingis started to make his presence felt in the early part of the fourth, getting open on multiple cuts and alley-oop attempts, making solid passes, and registering his fourth block. After he was subbed out with about 7 minutes to go, the Knicks went back to Melo, who continued to hit tough, contested shots. Thomas also continued his hot shooting, adding 10 more points to his total.
The Magic finally took control at the very end of the game. With three minutes to go, Evan Fournier finally came alive with a layup and a 3-pointer on consecutive possessions. A steal from Harris leading to a Victor Oladipo dunk pushed the Magic to their biggest lead of the night at 104-94, and after the Knicks played the foul game, the buzzer would sound with a score of 107-99.