The shooting woes continued. The losing streak continued.
The Magic, by a pretty comfortable margin, were held to a season-low point total, falling to the Knicks, 91-84, in a Martin Luther King Day matinee at Madison Square Garden.
Yet, as poorly as the Magic shot all game, they were in position to win in the closing minutes.
About the only player on the Magic who could put the ball in the basket in the first quarter was Nikola Vucevic, who scored Orlando’s first nine points. Vucevic hit four of his first five shots while the rest of his teammates combined to go 0-for-15.
After Vooch’s ninth point, the Knicks went on an 11-0 run that opened a 17-9 lead. Aaron Gordon finally put someone other than Magic on the board by hitting a pair of free throws with 1:39 left in the quarter. It wasn’t until 43 seconds remaining in the first that the Magic scored a non-Vooch field goal, with Gordon converting a reverse layup.
The Magic trailed 19-13 after the first, shooting just 23.8 percent from the field in the quarter, including 1-for-6 from deep. The Knicks also struggled from the perimeter in the opening quarter, making 1 of 8 attempts, but shot 42.9% overall.
The shooting improved slightly for the Magic in the second quarter, but the numbers at the half still weren’t pretty...
Gary Clark and Dwayne Bacon’s production in 25 combined first half minutes:— Orlando Pinstriped Post (@OPPMagicBlog) January 18, 2021
0 points (0-7 FGA’s), 0 rebounds, 0 assists, 0 steals, 0 blocks, 3 fouls
Rookie first-half matchup:— Orlando Pinstriped Post (@OPPMagicBlog) January 18, 2021
Cole Anthony: 3 pts, 1-for-6 FG
Immanuel Quickley: 11 pts, 4-for-7 FG
Julius Randle drained a three just before the buzzer to send the Knicks into the break with their largest lead of the half at 47-38. It was mostly a two-man show in the half for the Magic as Vooch had 13 points and 9 rebounds and Gordon added 9 points and 8 rebounds. The Magic’s starting backcourt of Cole Anthony and Dwayne Bacon combined for 3 points on 1-for-10 shooting as the Magic shot just 31.7% in half (4 of 15 from three).
The Magic’s shooting struggles continued in the third as the Knicks going up by 13 on a driving dunk by old friend Elfrid Payton to make it 62-49 with 2:29 left in the quarter. The deficit reached 15 before Jordan Bone hit a three to bring the Magic within 66-54 heading into the fourth.
Steve Clifford uncharacteristically began the fourth quarter with Vucevic on the floor, searching for an offensive spark. Terrence Ross scored seven points as the Magic went on an early 9-1 run to pull within 69-63. The Magic later tied the score on a three by Gordon that made it 73-73 with 5:50 remaining. Following a layup by Payton, and a Reggie Bullock free throw after Vucevic was whistled for a death stare technical foul, Gordon’s tip-in pulled the Magic back within one. Ross later hit a three to tie it up at 78 with 3:39 left.
Clifford oddly decided to stick with Khem Birch down the stretch, and Birch didn’t have his finest performance. He missed an easy one off a pretty feed from Cole Anthony that would have broke a 78-all tie. He then fumbled a pass from Gordon with the Magic down two and under two minutes left, leading to a jump ball. He was bailed out by Ross, who hit this desperation heave with the shot clock winding down that miraculously gave the Magic their first lead since the opening minutes....
It curiously was Birch defending Randle late in the game rather than Gordon, who had frustrated Randle all game. Birch got whistled for a foul on Randle 20 feet away from the basket, leading to Randle hitting one of two free throws to tie it. Birch, with AG guarding Barrett, then attempted to draw a charge as Randle spun his way into the paint, leading to an uncontested layup to put the Knicks up 83-81.
Out of a Magic timeout, Gordon drove the lane and got caught in the air, throwing the ball away and creating an easy layup for Barrett off the turnover. Overall, it was poor execution, a lack of shots in the fourth for Vooch (last attempt with 6:24 remaining!!), strange lineup decisions, and silly fouls down the stretch cost the Magic a game they could have stole despite their offensive woes.
Vucevic finished with 24 points and 14 rebounds, while shooting 10-for-16 from the field. Gordon had a strong all-around game despite the fact he struggled with his shot, finishing with 18 points (6-for-18, 2 of 7 from three), a career-high 17 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 blocks, and stellar defense on Randle, who had one of his most inefficient games of the young season (21 points, 5-for-19 shooting).
Ross added 19 points, hitting 4 of 8 attempts from three, but going just 5-for-16 overall.
It was an ugly shooting night all-around for the Magic, who shot 33.7 percent from the field:
Cole Anthony: 6 points, 2-for-12 FG
Dwayne Bacon: 2 points, 1-for-7 FG
James Ennis: 5 points, 2-for-6 FG
Gary Clark: 0 points, 0-for-5 FG
The Knicks actually shot worse (35.6%), and hit just 5 of 27 three-point attempts, but held a big advantage at the free throw line, going 24 of 34 from the stripe compared to just 14 of 16 for the Magic.
“We lost this game because we fouled,” Clifford said after the game.
The loss is the sixth straight for the Magic, who are now 6-8. Their road trip continues on Wednesday against the Timberwolves.