Finishing up their three game home stand, the Orlando Magic welcomed the New York Knicks to the Amway Center. Sparked by the return of their starting point guard, the Magic took care of business against the Knicks, 112-99.
It was a tale of two teams pregame, with the Magic getting the good news that Elfrid Payton, who missed the team’s previous eight games, would return to the starting lineup after dealing with a hamstring injury. On the other end of the spectrum, the Knicks announced they’d be without Kristaps Porzingis, who is dealing with ankle and elbow injuries.
With Payton back in the lineup, the Magic got off to a quick start. Payton pushed the Magic at a frenetic pace, getting them into the front court consistently under four seconds, and getting the team into secondary sets if nothing arose early. In turn, the Magic offense looked much more like the team that played in their first eight games, and not their last two. Despite the good start, the Knicks got things going thanks to Tim Hardaway Jr.’s 11 first quarter points to take a one point lead, 28-27 after one.
Turning to their bench, things didn’t get much better for the Magic. Their reserves struggled to get stops, and score the ball, letting the Knicks jump out to a six point lead. Going back to their starters, led by Payton and Evan Fournier, the Magic began to get some momentum going on the defensive end, forcing turnover after turnover, leading to some easy baskets. Thanks to their 18-8 run to finish the half, and 15 points from Nikola Vucevic, the Magic carried a four point lead, 54-50, into halftime.
Out of halftime the Magic defense continued to find it’s footing against a hot shooting Knicks team. As their defense continued to force turnovers, the offense made the most of it, thanks to Payton’s play making, and hot shooting from Vucevic and Aaron Gordon. The strong play on the offensive end aided the Magic in pushing their lead to as many as 10. The Knicks closed it to five late in the quarter, before Gordon knocked down another triple to give the Magic an eight point lead, 84-76, after three.
Unlike the early portion of the second quarter, the Magic’s second unit got things going early in the fourth. Behind Jonathon Simmons’ aggressive play, the Magic pushed their lead up to as many as 14. A three from Fournier with just under five minutes to play put the Magic up 16, all but ending any chance the Knicks had of making a comeback.
Fournier led five Magic men in double figures with 25 points, and a career-high tying five steals. Vucevic knocked down a set of three’s en-route to 24 of his own. Gordon added 21, with Simmons scoring 11 of his 16 in the fourth quarter. Payton finished his return with 11 points, 11 assists and six rebounds.
Tim Hardaway Jr led the Knicks, finishing with 26. Doug McDermott added 13 off the bench, as former Magic guard Courtney Lee finished with 12. Enes Kanter added 10 on the night.