For the third time in as many games on their road trip, the Orlando Magic led at halftime.
This time, they were able to finish what they started.
In a matchup of teams desperate for a victory Wednesday night, the Magic held on to defeat the New York Knicks 97-95. Evan Fournier scored a career-high 28 points as, for the second night in a row, Magic coach Jacque Vaughn leaned on four of his five starters — the exception again being rookie point guard Elfrid Payton — for extended minutes.
Nikola Vucevic had his sixth double-double in nine games with 20 points and 13 rebounds. His up-and-under move on Knicks center Samuel Dalembert gave the Magic a 91-87 lead with 3:03 to go.
While Carmelo Anthony led the Knicks with 27 points, he had to sit out two minutes of the fourth quarter after picking up his fifth foul. And when the Knicks had a chance to at least tie the game with 3.5 seconds remaining after Fournier split two free throws, Anthony never got to touch the ball. The inbound pass went instead to J.R. Smith, whose 3-pointer over Fournier was well off the mark.
Fifteen of Fournier’s points came in the first quarter. The Magic were up 56-50 at the half as they shot better than 50 percent from the floor and turned the ball over only five times.
As was the case Tuesday night at Toronto, Luke Ridnour ran the offense in the fourth quarter instead of Payton. One difference from the loss to the Raptors: Andrew Nicholson, who didn’t play at all in the Magic’s previous five games, had eight points in 19 minutes off the bench.
The Magic won despite being outrebounded 40-37. They went 0-39 last season in games where they finished with a disadvantage on the boards and were 0-5 in such games this season.