ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN SPORTS) – In the last two home games, the Orlando Magic could not find ways to score the basketball, but on Wednesday night they finally got back their scoring ways. Nikola Vucevic’s 24 points led the Magic to a 112-99 victory over the New York Knicks.
In a game where the Knicks’ best player, Kristaps Porzingis, was held out due to elbow and finger injuries, the Magic spread the floor in order keep Knicks starting center Enes Kanter out of the game. Vucevic shot 9 for 16 from the floor and knocked down 3 three-pointers in the effort. Aaron Gordon chipped in with 21 points and went 4 for 6 from deep as well. Orlando finished 13 for 28 as a team from deep and four of the five starters hit at least two (Elfrid Payton was the only starter who did not hit one.).
The Knicks, who had won their previous three games including two of them with fourth quarter comebacks, could not pull this one out without Porzingis. Jonathon Simmons scored 11 of his 16 points in the early part of fourth quarter to keep the Knicks at bay. Simmons at one point had three possessions in the quarter in which he was fouled as he was making a tough shot in the lane.
“That’s sort of been when we’re at our best, with the starting unit doing what they’re doing and Simms coming in and running the show with the second unit… And he carried that stretch, he and Aaron kind of carried that stretch and he was terrific.” – Orlando Magic Head Coach Frank Vogel on Jonathon Simmons’ play in the 4th quarter
Elfrid Payton made his return to the Magic lineup as he scored 11 points, 6 rebounds and 11 assists. After missing the last 8 games due to a hamstring injury, he return sparked the Magic, as he controlled and outplayed the New York point guards.
“His dribble penetration and his tempo. When we get scored on, I’m able to out [the ball] to him from near half-court and he gets into the paint. If nobody picks him up, it’s a lay-up or he just kicks it out to people. He always has his head up. He’s just a very, very talented point guard.” – Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon on Elfrid Payton’s impact
The Magic were out-rebounded 42-29, but made it up by forcing 23 Knicks turnovers in the game. Evan Fournier had 5 steals and the team finished with 15 total. Every Magic starter finished with a plus rating on the plus/minus chart, with Payton leading the way with a plus 20.
Tim Hardaway Jr. led the Knicks with 26 points and a game-high 11 rebounds on 11 for 21 shooting from the field. Doug McDermott had 13 points off the bench for New York.
Orlando will travel for a four-game road trip that starts on Friday in Phoenix as they play the new-look Suns. The trip will stop in Denver and Portland and ends with a trip to the defending champion Golden State Warriors. They will return to Amway Center next Saturday Night as they take on the Utah Jazz.
Danny Thompson is a sports contributor for Florida National News. | firstname.lastname@example.org