The Magic bench had actual bodies sitting in the seats, including a back-up point guard for the first time in a while.
Those reinforcements, along with Terrence Ross’ best scoring night of the season, and a strong defensive performance by the Magic led to what was one of their most complete victories of the season as they defeated the Knicks, 107-89.
The Magic started the game by knocking down three of their first four three-point attempts against a defense that holds opponents to the league’s lowest shooting percentage from deep. But that would be the last they hit in the quarter as they missed their final four attempts of the quarter while the Knicks staged a few runs.
Julius Randle, coming off a 44-point performance in which he hit a career-high seven three-pointers, picked up right where he left off. He scored 13 points in the first, hitting all three of his attempts from deep.
The Knicks shot 54 percent in the quarter, going on separate runs of 9-0 and 8-0, to take a 32-23 lead into the second quarter.
As for those making Magic returns or debuts, Evan Fournier was back in the starting lineup duo, scoring the first five Magic points. The recently-signed Chasson Randle checked in with just under four minutes remaining in the fourth. Al-Farouq Aminu made his second return of the season, checking in for Khem Birch with just under three minutes remaining. Oh and Mo Bamba also got some first quarter minutes, hitting his only shot while playing alongside Aminu and Chuma Okeke in the frontcourt of what was an effective defensive lineup.
The Magic opened the second by hitting from deep once again, with makes by Aminu, Terrence Ross and Okeke in the early going. Michael Carter Williams drove the lane and threw down a two-handed dunk plus the foul on a contesting Nerlens Noel to give the Magic a 37-36 lead.
It was a back and forth affair for the remainder of the quarter, and the Knicks led 56-53 going into the break behind Randle’s 17 first-half points.
Ross had 12 points and Dwayne Bacon added 10 points in the half to lead the Magic, who assisted on 15 of their 22 field goals in the half while shooting 44 percent from the field. The Magic were knocking down their open threes, connecting on 8 of 18 attempts from deep to help compensate for the Knicks advantage at the free throw line (11-for-12 compared to 1-for-3 for Orlando). The Knicks, held to 3 of 8 shooting from deep, also had an uncharacteristic 10 first-half turnovers, which led to 19 Magic points.
Gary Clark hit back-to-back threes to put the Magic up 67-65 with just under seven minutes left in the third. The Magic soon went on a 9-0 run, capped by a Fournier three, to push their lead to 76-68. The run would grow to 16-2 after Randle found Vooch with a pretty bounce pass in the lane for a left-handed hook and then Ross knocked down a three and a layup to close the quarter with the Magic up 83-70.
The Magic outscored the Knicks 30-14 in the third on 50% shooting, including 5 of 11 makes from deep in what was one of the Magic’s best all-around quarters of the season.
The Magic lead grew to 17 in the fourth before Alec Burks hit a pair of threes to pull the Knicks within 91-80 midway through. But the Magic defense wouldn’t allow the Knicks to get much closer, holding the Knicks to 33 second-half points. Ross hit a jumper to start a 7-0 Magic run that helped seal the victory.
Ross finished with a season-high 30 points on 10-for-16 shooting, hitting 5 of 6 attempts from deep.
The Magic overall connected on 16 of 34 attempts from deep (47.1%) against a Knicks team that entered holding opponents to a league low 31% from long range.
Fournier added 19 points in his return and Bacon had 15 on 6 of 8 shooting (3-for-3 from deep), including a dunk!
Making the victory all the more impressive was that it was accomplished with Vucevic struggling from the field. Vooch was held to 16 points on 8-for-24, missing all seven of his attempts from deep. He did have 16 rebounds and five assists. Randle in his Magic debut had 2 points, 5 assists and 1 turnover in 19 minutes.
Julius Randle, after scoring 13 in the first quarter, finished with 25 to lead the Knicks, who shot 37.9%, going just 7 for 27 from three. Immanuel Quickley and Derrick Rose combined to shoot 2-for-22 from the field.
Impressive win over a team that was on a three-game winning streak and looking to leapfrog last season’s eighth-seeded Magic to take their spot in the playoffs. Next up for the Magic is the Warriors on Friday.