Coming off a big victory on Saturday night, the Orlando Magic continued their momentum against the New York Knicks. Despite blowing an 18-point first quarter lead, the Magic were able to hold on for a 131-117 victory.
Looking to sweep both games of a rare home-and-home back-to-back, the Magic came out blazing hot early, knocking down their first 10 shots of the night. Aaron Gordon, who missed the teams blowout win over the Knicks last Sunday, was in attack mode from the start, scoring 20 points on 8-of-9 shooting in the quarter.
Orlando’s defense wasn’t particularly crisp, allowing the Knicks to score 31 points of their own, and march to the free throw line nine times. Coach Steve Clifford has talked about the importance of his team being able to defend without fouling, especially when they have a large lead like they did, up 18.
Despite the struggles defensively, the offense made up for it, tying the franchise record for the most points in the first quarter at 44. They shot 68 percent from the field, en route to a 44-31 lead.
As has been the case a few times this season, the Magic’s big lead quickly evaporated, with the Knicks cutting it down to as few as one at the half. The Magic’s ball movement on offense came to a abrupt halt, and the defense couldn’t keep anyone in front of them.
The Knicks also took advantage of poor rebounding, amassing 17 second chance points in the half, while having a 12 rebound advantage. After their blistering first quarter shooting, the Magic shot a frigid 33 percent in the second half, as the lead slowly dwindled.
At the half, the Magic held a tight one point lead, 67-66, over the Knicks.
Out of the half, it was a mixed bag for the Magic. Early on they looked like the same team that started the game, outscoring the Knicks 20-9 in the first portion of the quarter. New York quickly found their groove once again, cutting the Magic lead back down to as few as two in the quarter.
Defensively the Magic still struggled, but were a little more active, forcing the Knicks into some tougher shots. The ball movement also returned on the offensive end, with the ball moving around the floor leading to more quality looks.
After three, the Magic, led by 28 from Aaron Gordon, were up by six, 98-92 as they looked to complete the sweep of their two game weekend home set.
Needing a spark, Terrence Ross and Jonathan Isaac answered.
After making just one of his first 10 shots, Ross made three big shots to push the Magic lead back up to eight after the Knicks once again cut it within one possession. Isaac, who made a profound impact on the defensive end on Saturday night, showed off his potential on the offensive end, cutting for a pair of easy baskets, and taking the ball to the rim for an and-1.
A thunderous one handed dunk from Isaac put the Magic back up 12 with 5:27 remaining.
Despite some lapses on defense, and struggles to defend without fouling down the stretch, the Magic were able to make enough plays offensively to hold on.
Gordon finished the night with 31, but only 11 after the first quarter. Nikola Vucevic flirted with his second triple-double of the season, finishing with 28 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.