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New York Knicks guard Elfrid Payton (6) handles the ball against Orlando Magic guard Evan Fournier (10) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Michael Owens)

Magic Lose to Depleted Knicks Squad at MSG

The Orlando Magic (22-30) lost 105-103 to the New York Knicks (16-36) in one of the NBA’s most iconic arenas Thursday night. Even after losing their top scorer, Marcus Morris, the Knicks rose to the occasion to win their third straight.

The Magic have been in a rut since they beat the Lakers on Jan. 15, going 2-9 over that stretch with both of those wins coming against the struggling Hornets. After this loss, they drop to a season-worst eight games under .500. Several problems have haunted the Magic through this slump that also cost them against the Knicks.

Turnovers

After turning the ball over 17 times in their loss to the Celtics on Wednesday, the Magic committed 21 turnovers to the Knicks. New York cashed in 17 points off of those turnovers in the win. Several of these turnovers came at the hands of the former Magic point guard Elfrid Payton.

Payton finished with a career-high seven steals on the night, combined with 15 points and nine assists. He eventually sealed the game with his final steal after Evan Fournier coughed up the ball in the final seconds.

As of Wednesday morning, the Magic committed the least turnovers per game in the league with 12.5. After these last two games, though, they’ve jumped to 12.8 per game, now fourth least in the league.

Sluggish Play

The Magic were playing in the second game of a back-to-back after having just played the Celtics the night before. Possibly because of this, the Knicks dominated the first half, and the first quarter in particular. They led 30-19 after a first quarter in which they came up with six steals and blocked three shots. At the half, they led 54-47.

The third quarter, though, belonged to the Magic. Even though the turnovers continued to haunt them, they started to make more shots and play better defense. Nikola Vucevic heated up, scoring 10 in the quarter, while Aaron Gordon started to play better, as well, putting up 9 in the third. After going on a 9-2 run to end the quarter, the Magic led 83-76.

https://twitter.com/OrlandoMagic/status/1225603111835852800

From there, hot shooting from Wayne Ellington and continued hustle from Payton helped the Knicks to battle back and eventually complete the comeback. Payton was able to continue his hot hand, after notching a triple-double in the Knicks’ last game against the Cavaliers.

The Final Moments

The last 10 seconds of the game were chaotic, to say the least. Down 105-103, Evan Fournier carried out the ball for the Magic and, seeing no options, tried to cut in. At that point, Orlando head coach Steve Clifford tried to get the referees’ attention and call a timeout, but his pleas weren’t heard. Fournier eventually lost a handle on the ball. Payton was there to steal it and time expired on a Knicks win.

https://twitter.com/nyknicks/status/1225617061377957889

Clifford had to be restrained after the game, furious at the fact that no one recognized his timeout. He explained his frustration to the press after the game, saying that coaches and players need to have awareness, but referees do, also.

Regardless of the last play, the Knicks made a 25-8 run in the fourth quarter on a revamped defensive effort and solid shooting.

Player Performances

The Magic led a balanced attack through the game with five players in double-digit point totals. Vucevic led the way with 25 points on 9-of-13 shooting while Gordon, Fournier and Markelle Fultz each recorded 16 points.

For the Knicks, Julius Randle and Taj Gibson dominated inside the paint with 22 and 19 points, respectively. The two combined for 19-of-28 shooting inside the paint. R.J. Barrett provided relief off the bench with 12 points and three rebounds. He had missed the previous nine games with a high ankle sprain.

The road doesn’t get any easier for the Magic, as they travel home to play the league-best Milwaukee Bucks on Feb. 8.

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