The Orlando Magic came into New York searching for a spark as they attempted to end a two-game losing streak against a recently struggling New York Knicks squad.
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Orlando Magic coach Frank Vogel challenged the Orlando Magic to compete on both ends. And they rightfully did just that, as they walked away with a key 115-103 road win over the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Monday.
The Magic and the Knicks were exchanging blows in the first quarter as the two teams came out red hot offensively. But the Magic had a great second quarter on both ends of the floor which helped them build an eight-point lead going into halftime.
The Magic have struggled in the third quarter this season. But they had a very strong third quarter defensively Monday, limiting the Knicks to just 21 points, the Knicks lowest point total in a quarter their last five games. The great defensive play opened up the whole game as the Magic stayed consistent throughout the game and secured a road victory.
The Magic had 35 assists in the game, a season high. The Magic seemed to be in sync offensively as they stayed patient, rotated the ball from side to side and took the best shot available. The Magic often passed up a good shot for a great shot.
The Magic were great on the boards, collecting 46 rebounds on the night. The Magic got offensive rebounds twice on their trips to the free throw line, both times they got a three-pointer to fall as a result of the second-chance opportunity.
The Magic connected on 15 of their 31 three-point attempts, which tied their season high against the Atlanta Hawks on Dec. 13. The Magic started the game with a 3-pointer from D.J. Augustin, which set a tone for the Magic, as the rest followed.
The Magic’s great defense forced the Knicks to hoist up a prayer at the end of the shot clock at times, the Knicks attempted 83 field goal attempts in the game, 12 of which came in the last five seconds of the shot clock.
“I thought we responded pretty well, we brought a lot of energy,” Nikola Vucevic said to Dante Marchitelli of FOX Sports Florida following the game.
The Magic were surely the aggressors as they made sure all the Knicks field goal attempts were tough.
“We played with much more energy on both ends of the floor, we played harder offensively,” Frank Vogel said after the game. “We screened harder, cut harder, and worked harder.”
Aaron Gordon had a tough defensive assignment, having to guard one of the most offensively gifted players in the league in Carmelo Anthony. Gordon did a great job as he stayed with Anthony on the off-ball screens and challenged every shot Anthony attempted. He made it tough for him in the paint, as he was very physical with Anthony which put him in a little bit of foul trouble in the second quarter. Carmelo Anthony shot 6 for 17 from the field (35 percent).
Gordon may not have had the best night offensively, as he shot 8 for 19 to total 22 points. But he was very aggressive. He attacked the rim and on one possession, drew the foul on Anthony and finished the play for a three-point play. He dished out six assists, a season high, as he involved his teammates, and dished off the ball down low to Nikola Vucevic or Serge Ibaka after he drew the Knicks big men on his drives.
Vogel said after the game Gordon takes losses harder than any player on the team. That could be seen tonight as he responded with one of his most all-around performances of his young NBA Career.
Jodie Meeks started the game off sizzling hot as he knocked down four threes in the first half. He set the tone, along with D.J. Augustin, as the two scored 14 of the first 16 Magic points. Meeks answered a Knicks run at times, which helped the Magic increase their lead. Meeks finished the game with 23 points on 7-for-9 shooting, making six of his seven 3-point attempts.
The negative part of Meeks’ performance was the defensive letdown at times. He was often unable to go through screens and was unable to be efficient in the switches off the screens the Magic make. He was clueless on one possession in particular in the second quarter, as he did not rotate over to Brandon Jennings, which resulted in a Jennings 3-pointer.
Nonetheless, Meeks did well replacing the injured Evan Fournier, who missed his fifth straight game on Monday.
Elfrid Payton was awful last game, as he turned the ball over three times and was limited to just two points, on 1-fro-8 shooting. He responded well, as he dished 14 assists. Payton played to his strengths, as he attacked the Knicks point guards, which as a result, grabbed the attention of Knicks big men, which created an ample amount of opportunities for Magic shooters.
Payton was very careful with the ball, as he finished with no turnovers. He shot 6 for 12 from the field and finished with 13 points. Payton was very aggressive defensively as he got into Jennings and Rose’s jersey at times, which resulted in him picking up a team-high four personal fouls.
This type of play is exactly what the Magic need from Payton on a nightly basis.
New York Knicks
The New York Knicks defeated the Orlando Magic a couple weeks ago, as they played with intensity and aggressiveness. They shared the ball and had 26 assists then. Tonight they only had 18 assists.
The offense was often stagnant, as this resulted in the Knicks picking up their fifth straight loss. The Knicks were without the services of Kristaps Porzingis, who was a huge factor in the Magic loss a couple weeks ago. But team work and being aggressive on the defensive end had nothing to do with Porzingis’ absence.
The Knicks were never in control of the game as they never held a lead since the one-point lead they took early in the first quarter. The Knicks will have a chance to redeem themselves, and end their five-game losing skid as they take on the red-hot Milwaukee Bucks led by Giannis Antetokounmpo on Wednesday.
The Magic will have a chance to continue their great play and remain consistent on Wednesday as they face the Atlanta Hawks at home.
The Magic must remain focused on all games this month as they have the toughest schedule in the Eastern Conference this month and also due to their playoff chances in jeopardy.