Magic stroll past Porzingis-less Knicks
ORLANDO, Fla. — The Orlando Magic caught a break Wednesday night. They played the Knicks when New York was without star forward Kristaps Porzingis, one of the hottest young players in the NBA.
It changed the game.
Nikola Vucevic scored 24 points and Evan Fournier added 23 to lead the Magic to a relatively easy 112-99 victory over the short-handed Knicks, who won six of their previous seven games by riding Porzingis.
Porzingis, who is averaging 30 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocked shots while shooting 51.2 percent from the field, watched from the sideline with a sore left ankle and a sore right elbow. He led the Knicks to a thrilling, come-from-behind victory the night before against the visiting Charlotte Hornets.
“Obviously, a big part of our preparation for this game was about him,” Vucevic said. “He’s a great player having a great season. They are a different team without him. He attracts so much attention now.”
The Magic (7-4) snapped a two-game losing streak, benefiting from the return of Elfrid Payton. The starting point guard, who missed the previous eight games due to a sore hamstring, ran the offensive almost flawlessly Wednesday, finishing with 11 points, 11 assists and only two turnovers.
Orlando’s Aaron Gordon had 21 points and hit four of his six 3-point shots. Reserve Jonathon Simmons scored 16 points, including 11 early in the fourth quarter when the Magic took control.
New York was not the same without Porzingis. Knicks fans in Orlando where chanting “MVP, MVP, MVP,” at him when he left the locker room after the game.
Tim Hardaway Jr. led the Knicks with a game-high 26 points and 11 rebounds. Reserve Doug McDermott had 13 points, Courtney Lee 12 and Enes Kanter 10.
“Like any team that’s missing their star player, guys have to step up,” Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said. “We had some guys contribute, but against a team that has energy, has their starting group back together, we were right there.”
The Knicks (6-5) shot 52.5 percent from the floor. They outrebounded the Magic 42-29 and hit five of their 12 3-point attempts, but they were hurt badly by 23 turnovers that turned into 29 Orlando points.
The Magic made 53.8 percent of their field-goal attempts and shot 46.4 percent from 3-point range. They committed only 13 turnovers.
“We missed the big fellow (Porzingis),” Hardaway said. “He does such a great job stretching the floor and mixing it up here and there. He makes the right plays. I thought we competed, but it was frustrating. We just have to do a better job, regardless of who is out there.”
The Magic had played the previous two games at home — and lost badly — without either Payton or second-string point guard D.J. Augustin. Getting Payton back changed their look considerably.
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence how we played tonight,” Fournier said. “EP (Elfrid Payton) is huge for us. It feels a lot better. When he’s running, everyone runs with him. It felt great to have him back out there.”
Simmons scored 11 points in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter, upping the lead to 97-86. The Magic boosted the margin to 16 points on Fournier’s third 3-pointer. The Knicks never got closer than eight points in the final 11 minutes.
Gordon hit a trio of 3-pointers in the third quarter when the Magic led by as many as 10 points. Orlando took a 84-76 advantage into the fourth.
The Magic led 54-50 at halftime after Vucevic scored 15 points and Fourier had 14 points and five steals. The Magic led by as many as nine points in the first quarter.
New York led by six points midway in the second quarter. Hardaway had 11 points by halftime. The Knicks had a 22-13 rebound edge in the first half, but they had 14 turnovers.
NOTES: F Kristaps Porzingis is expected back Saturday when the Knicks return to action against Sacramento. ... New York fans have become so excited about Porzingis that at least one of them wrote his name on the ballot for New York City mayor in Tuesday’s election, according to the New York Daily News. ... Porzingis started the season with 300 points in the first 10 games, the best start for anyone in team history. ... The Magic open a four-game western trip Friday night in Phoenix, where they have lost six of their last eight. ... Magic F Evan Fournier hit an early 3-pointer, giving him 36 consecutive games with at least one 3-pointer, the third-longest active streak in the league. ... The Knicks were coming off back-to-back victories that included deficits of at least 15 points, the first time they had accomplished that feat since 2006.