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Magic use second half spark to beat the Knicks

Jameer Nelson scores 23 second half points to lead Magic past the Knicks. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

ORLANDO — The Orlando Magic used a strong performance in the final 24-minute span to defeat the revamped New York Knicks 116-110 at the Amway Center Tuesday night.

In a game with plenty of fouls, turnovers and lead changes, things started clicking for the Magic (39-22) in the third quarter.

Even after trailing by 11 after halftime, a sense of urgency took over.

Orlando played better on defense and started shooting in transition — scoring 14 points in the paint.

And let’s not forget guard Jameer Nelson taking over.

Although Nelson scored three points in the first half, the sixth-year veteran scored 23-second half points that guided the Magic to a third straight victory.

“I thought it was good to see him be aggressive on the offensive end, came off the screens and attack the basket,” said Magic center Dwight Howard, who scored 30 points and had 16 rebounds.

Nelson made 10-of-16 shots, including both 3-pointers.

The Magic offense also shot nearly 58 percent and scored a season-high 69 second half points. The Orlando bench outscored the Knicks’ (30-28) bench 24-2.

“Other than our turnovers and too many fouls, I thought we played well,” said Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy.

Forward Ryan Anderson, who contributed 13 of his 16 points in the second half, said it was unbelievable to see Nelson take over a game.

“It was really big for us,” Anderson said. “Jameer is a big shot (maker), he’s a clutch guy, but tonight you could really see it.”

Guard J.J. Redick scored 12 and Quentin Richardson added 10 points, but more importantly five defensive rebounds that came during the Magic comeback. Richardson’s playing time increased when starter Hedo Turkoglu committed two technicals in a span of a minute in the second quarter.

Things did not always look good for Orlando. After a well built first period that saw them lead 32-21, the Knicks went to work in the second quarter when Magic center Dwight Howard began the period on the bench.

Before Howard returned with 7 minutes and 2 seconds to go, New York had cut the Magic lead to four points and would eventually take a 58-47 lead into the break. The momentum of the game had turned in favor of the Knicks with Orlando struggling from the floor. They only made 3-of-17 attempts.

For the Knicks, center Amar’e Stoudemire and guard Chauncey Billups scored 30 points with forward Carmelo Anthony contributing 25.

Although Billups made just four field goals, the majority of his points came from the free throw line. He made 18-of-20 from the stripe.

Both teams combined to tie a Magic franchise record for most free throw attempts in a game with 97. Orlando attempted a season-high 50 — converting 36 of them.

Even with Stoudemire, Billups and Anthony combining for 85 points, New York was held to 37 percent from the field.

“I didn’t think we gave them an inordinate amount of easy shots, we just turned the ball over too many times,” said Van Gundy.

Guard Gilbert Arena did not play due to a sore left knee, a decision Van Gundy said took place an hour before tipoff.

For his performance, Howard became the youngest player in NBA history to record 7,000 rebounds.

Following Tuesday’s performance, the Magic continues a weeklong tough stretch with a visit to the Miami Heat on Thursday. The Heat won the last meeting between the two teams, a 104-100 win in Orlando in early February.

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