In the aftermath of the blowout win over the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday, there was a sense around the Magic that they’d discovered something new about themselves, a small-ball attack that was effective, and perhaps more importantly, that was fun. There was hope that they’d be able to carry that energy forward and string together consecutive wins for the first time since Christmas. Unfortunately, it was the same old story, a disappointing loss after an encouraging win, as the Orlando Magic fell 101-90 to the New York Knicks.
Evan Fournier led all scorers with 22 points, and D.J. Augustin added an efficient 15 off the bench, but the Magic shot just 41.5% overall, including a miserable 5-24 from beyond the arc. New York’s “Big Three” of Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis, and Derrick Rose led the way for the visiting team, contributing a collective 57 points and 24 rebounds.
Unlike the last two games, the Magic’s energy wasn’t there for the first half of the game against the Knicks. While some of the deficit could be attributed to some bad luck, the Knicks hitting some unlikely long-range shots and getting some convenient bounces on rebounds and deflections, the Magic certainly had much to improve on their poor defensive performance. Melo got the ball rolling early, scoring 10 in the first quarter, but it was Porzingis in the second quarter that kept it going for New York, leading all scorers with 14.
For the Magic’s part, they found themselves in a deficit the entire half, aside from a 2-0 lead on the first possession. For a short period of time, they looked like they were going to rally behind D.J. Augustin’s second-quarter outburst, putting together 8 points to get Orlando within 1, 41-40. The Knicks starters soon returned, however, abusing the basket on Roses’s drives, Melo’s jumpers, and Porzingis’s all-around combination of shooting and rolling.
Fournier was the Magic’s lead scorer in the first half with 12 on 5-8 shooting, mostly on drives to the basket when he found opportunities. He was the only one who consistently got those chances, though, as the rest of the team was smothered and contained whenever they got into the paint. The starters couldn’t keep up with their counterparts from New York, leading to a 60-51 deficit at halftime.
Unfortunately, there would be no comeback, as the Magic came out of halftime as discombobulated as they were in the first two quarters. They were unable to contain the Knicks’ scorers on the perimeter, but when they overloaded and overhelped to prevent drives, they left shooters open on the corners and wings (though not to as devastating effect as in the first quarter). The third quarter was the ugliest one of the night, with neither team executing well, leading to the 19-16 clanker, and a slowly expanding New York lead, 79-67.
The Magic made one more push to try to get back into it, conjuring an 11-2 run to get into a competitive range. When the starters came back for both teams, Orlando was able to trade shots and stops evenly, but it wasn’t enough to put a dent into the lead, which bounced between 7 and 11 points throughout the quarter. With about two minutes left, Orlando had one last chance to make a big push, but were unable to capitalize, and a pair of free throws from Lance Thomas with about a minute and a half left put the game out of reach.