Coming into the night, both teams found themselves in similar situations, looking for wins after multiple losses in a row, and playing without some of their most important players, Evan Fournier and Kristaps Porzingis. Still, despite playing on a back-to-back, Orlando was able to run away with it in the second half, winning 115-103. Jodie Meeks was huge for Orlando early, leading the team with 23 points, while Serge Ibaka and Aaron Gordon each added 22 for the Magic, who shot nearly 50% on the night. Carmelo Anthony led New York with 19 on 6-17 shooting.
Right away it was clear that this would be another of those shootouts the Magic have experienced so regularly throughout the last month. As he’s done before filling in for Fournier, Meeks was hot right from the get-go, hitting the first shot of the game from deep to set the tone for Orlando’s offense. He would finish the quarter with two more of those 3-pointers on his way to 14 points. He was not alone making it happen from downtown, as Augustin hit two of his own. While the Magic were making it happen behind the arc, the Knicks were feasting on the paint, scoring 20 of their points there in the first quarter. The two teams continued to trade blows, but Orlando’s long-range barrage gave them a slight edge, 33-32.
As has been the case in many of these kinds of games, the first team to actually play some defense was the one that would pull ahead, and the Magic found a way to force some misses out of the Knicks in the second. They started off on a 7-0 run, and though the Knicks fought back, Orlando countered with another run, using an 11-3 burst to pull ahead by double digits. After doing so well near the basket early, New York only scored 2 points in the paint in the second quarter, shooting just 37%. Orlando’s one deficient area defensively was fouling, as New York was able to salvage their efficiency with 9-11 shooting from the line in the quarter. Still, slowing down their offense just a little was enough to expand the lead, thanks to Orlando’s continued hot shooting. Nikola Vucevic added 8 points in the quarter, playing an excellent pick-and-roll game with Payton to abuse the Knicks’ shorthanded big man rotation. They took a 67-59 lead into halftime.
Both teams slowed down in the third quarter, but it was Orlando’s defense that defined the period and helped the Magic to continue growing their lead. The Knicks continued to shoot poorly, but only went 3-3 from the free throw line on the way to their lowest-scoring quarter yet. Offensively, it was Ibaka’s time to shine, scoring an efficient 11 points thanks to his much-improved midrange game. Gordon added 7 of his own for the Magic, who had yet another great game controlling the ball, giving up just 6 turnovers through 3 quarters. New York continued to lean on Anthony, who led the Knicks in scoring all night, but the rest of the team continued to falter, especially Joakim Noah, who missed a wide-open layup at one point that then led to an Ibaka 3. Orlando’s lead slowly grew wider, settling at 92-80.
The fourth started out rough for Orlando. After Gordon hit a 3, Orlando had back-to-back possessions that went absolutely nowhere, both going the length of the shot clock. Fortunately, New York was unable to capitalize on the moment, and Orlando would quickly reassert offensively control of the game. The lead hovered around 15 much of the quarter, and it wasn’t until the last five minutes that Orlando expanded their lead, punctuated by a ridiculous Gordon 3-pointer to beat the buzzer and propel the bench units into the game.