Orlando Magic Grades: New York Knicks 94, Orlando Magic 93

Aaron Gordon returned for the Orlando Magic and made a positive impact for the team. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports
Aaron Gordon returned for the Orlando Magic and made a positive impact for the team. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports /

Final. 93. 38. 94. 27

The Orlando Magic’s trip to New York felt like one step forward and two steps back the entire night.

The team found itself in a tight game after erasing a 16-point deficit, only to give up a 10-0 run to fall behind by five again only then to erase that deficit and give themselves the chance to win.

Down by one point with 30 seconds to play, the Magic forced a trap in the corner and tied up Reggie Bullock. Evan Fournier did a good job keeping Reggie Bullock in the corner and feeding him to Nikola Vucevic for the trap before going in for the kill. He easily won the tip.

With the chance to win the game though, the Magic got a clean inbound to Fournier to set up a high pick and roll with Vucevic. The Magic’s two best offensive players would work together to get a good shot.

As they predicted, Fournier got blitzed as the Knicks tried to get the ball out of his hands to the Magic’s shooters and deny it to Vucevic. If they could get it to Vucevic, he could attack a 2-on-1 and get to the basket.

But one step forward, two steps back for this team.

Fournier anticipated the blitz a little too soon. He left his feet and tried to loft a pass over Bullock. But Bullock got a hand on it and stole it, running to the other end of the court as Fournier stood in a frustrated daze and Vucevic was too late to catch up.

The Orlando Magic came back and made strides to cement their defense. But poor offensive execution and a late-game turnover cost them a chance to end their losing streak.

The Knicks held on for a 94-93 victory they nearly gave away at Madison Square Garden on Thursday. The Magic have lost nine straight games. And few may be as frustrating as this one as the team seems to be staring deeper into the abyss.

Orlando came out on fire to take a 10-point lead quickly in the first quarter. But the offense completely dried up when the starters came out. The Magic ended up shooting just 42.7-percent from the field and an icy 10 for 34 from deep. Orlando could not get open shots to go down and the Knicks’ vice-like defense cut them off.

New York finally found some shooting to take as much as a 16-point lead in the third quarter before Orlando methodically cut it down behind some great shooting from Fournier and playmaking from Gordon. the Magic used their defense to key everything.

But that has proven not to be enough. And when the game was on the line, the Magic made mistake after mistake when they took the lead. turnovers from Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier and some miscommunication on defense as they tried desperately to double Julius Randle and get their coverages right ended up costing them the game.

EVAN FOURNIER. B. . G/F. Orlando Magic

For three quarters, it looked like Evan Fournier was more focused on getting his legs under him and trying to get his own shot rather than trying to play within the flow of the team’s offense or to the gameplan. This was a player coming back from a prolonged absence and having the freedom to take as many shots as he needed to get back into rhythm.

Then the fourth quarter happened. Fournier seemed to get his wind back and he started hitting shots. And that keyed two separate 10-0 run that not only erased the New York Knicks’ 16-point lead but also gave the Orlando Magic a five-point lead of their own. Fournier was at the center of it hitting big shot after big shot. He made several big plays down the stretch too, hitting the three that brought Orlando within one and tying up Reggie Bullock to get the last possession.

Still, Fournier admitted freely that the last play was his mistake. He made a bad decision — a rookie mistake, as he put it — with the game on the line. It is hard to shake that when evaluating him. Fournier finished with a team-high 23 points.

Orlando Magic. AARON GORDON. B. . F

Aaron Gordon too was working his way back after an extended absence (with a one-game interlude to try and play) and it looked like it. He was forcing some of his shots and generally freelancing in the ways fans do not like seeing Gordon freelance.  He was forcing shots and generally seeking his way. Some of that is because he was playing the backup point guard, which he admitted was still something of an adjustment learning when to be aggressive.

But he found himself in the second half. Like Evan Fournier, he suddenly came alive in the fourth quarter, hitting shots and getting into the lane. His defense stiffened up too as he locked down R.J. Barrett in the fourth quarter. Gordon finished with 17 points and seven assists to give the Magic some great minutes once he found his footing.

D. . PG. Orlando Magic. CHASSON RANDLE

Opportunity is everything in this league. Chasson Randle is in the middle of a big one playing for the injury-depleted Orlando Magic. Without any other point guard options, Randle was elevated to the starting lineup. This was a huge chance for him to make a mark. Unfortunately, it was not a good one.

Randle is more of a scorer than a floor general at this point. It showed as he struggled to get the Magic consistently into their sets with good pace. His dribble was also extremely loose, allowing the New York Knicks to knock him off course and slowing down his ability to get out in transition. There were good moments for sure. But the Magic’s offense stalled out a lot with him out there. the team had a 93.1 offensive rating with Randle on the floor, the worst of any starter.

B+. . F. Orlando Magic. AL-FAROUQ AMINU

The Orlando Magic are using an interesting platoon right now at power forward. And some of the decisions coach Steve Clifford is making are sure to spring some debate — especially with the minutes distribution for Chuma Okeke. Each one is going to bring some different skill — and Khem Birch deserves credit for solid defense on Julius Randle down the stretch in forcing him to some tough shots.

Al-Farouq Aminu gets pointed out here. He played with some great energy early especially, helping set the tone for the team. He was good defensively as usual. But he was confident and selective with his shots. He scored seven points and grabbed six rebounds, providing a good contribution to the team in his minutes on the floor.

21-21. 7th East. NEW YORK KNICKS. B.

The New York Knicks feel like a mirror image of what the Orlando Magic are supposed to be. That makes sense since Steve Clifford and Tom Thibodeau are close friends and share coaching philosophies. The Knicks’ defense was on throughout the game and made it tough for the Magic to execute. The Magic put a lot of attention on Julius Randle and he did the right thing in finding Reggie Bullock and Alec Burks for threes. Even Frank Ntilikina got in on the action.

The Knicks’ defense — like the Magic’s defense since the All-Star break — should give them the chance to win almost every game. But New York has to find a way to sustain its offensive force. The Knicks’ offense went into a shell as the Magic’s defense dictated things in the fourth quarter. And New York nearly gave the game completely away. This team is still learning how to compete as a playoff team.

Next. Orlando Magic still believe they can finish strong. dark

The Magic have now lost nine straight games and have fallen to 13-27, 14th in the Eastern Conference. They trail the Indiana Pacers by 4.5 games for the final spot in the play-in tournament. The Orlando Magic are back in action Friday at the Amway Center against the Brooklyn Nets.