A visibly exhausted version of the Orlando Magic dropped the second game of a back-to-back on Friday night, losing to the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden by a score of 95-108. After a scoring-heavy contest against the Golden State Warriors on Thursday, the Magic looked flat from tipoff to final buzzer – losing the lead midway through the first quarter and never recapturing it. New York would lead by as much as 24 as they defended home court from their Eastern Conference foes.
The Knicks shot around 50% for most of the game, and were led initially by longtime Magic foe Jose Calderon. The Spaniard scored 10 of the Knicks’ first 17 points, and steadied the ship as the team found their rhythm. Despite an early surge by forward Aaron Gordon, among others, the Magic found themselves trailing by nine at the end of the first quarter.
This one was essentially over by the half, as the Knicks would double down in the second quarter and extend their lead to 18 by halftime. It seemed that no matter which lineup was one the floor, the Knicks were able to draw fouls and exploit individual matchups. The Knicks would convert 30 of their 36 free throws on the night, compared to 11-of-16 for the Magic.
Forward Derrick Williams would propel New York’s second team, scoring nine points in the second quarter as Melo and company caught their breath. Both Williams and Lance Thomas would finish with 11 points to compliment the impressive performance by starters – each of the starting five scoring in double figures on the night.
Former Magic man Arron Afflalo had a solid game, grabbing a game-high 12 rebounds to go along with 14 points for the Knicks.
The matchup was particularly stressful in the frontcourt, as the undersized Magic duo of Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon faced a nightmare matchup. At 6’8’, Gordon was stuck on 7’3" rookie sensation Kristaps Porzingis at power forward, while the 6’7" Fournier gave up nearly 40 pounds to take on former scoring champion Carmelo Anthony. The Knick forwards took turns leading their teams in scoring, with Melo finishing at 19 points and Porzingis at 18.
Fournier’s struggles extended beyond defense, as he failed to record a point until the third quarter and fouled out with five minutes left in the fourth.
The most telling example of Orlando’s defensive struggles came in the benching of center Nikola Vucevic, who was replaced by Dewayne Dedmon for the entire fourth quarter. Dedmon played well in garbage time, scoring a career-high ting 12 points on the night.
Magic head coach Scott Skiles seemed baffled by his team’s lack of execution in the postgame, stating "Even just positioning on the ball and things that are just basic all the way back to the beginning of camp – we’ve just kinda left the page and we’re just going on our own, and any team in the league is gonna make you pay for that."
The Magic (25-32) look to regroup from this defeat on Sunday as they take on the last-place Philadelphia 76ers at home. Orlando has split their last two meetings with the Sixers, with the road team winning both contests.