ORLANDO, Fla. — The Orlando Magic’s shooting woes continue early in the season. So has their dogged defense.
Nikola Vucevic scored 21 points and had 14 rebounds and Aaron Gordon scored 10 of his 15 points in the final five minutes of the game to help Orlando beat New York 95-83 on Wednesday night to end a two-game losing streak.
Evan Fournier added 14 points, Jonathan Isaac had 10 and Orlando finished on a 16-3 run.
The Magic limited New York to just one basket and one free throw in the final eight minutes to rally from an 80-79 deficit. Orlando allowed the Knicks just one of 11 shooting and forced three turnovers in that game-deciding stretch.
“We’re trying to find our way offensively, but I do believe we had great defensive talent on this roster,” Magic coach Steve Clifford said. “Through these first 10-12 games, we can defend and compete our way through until we get our offense going. That’s what we did tonight.”
The defense was very much needed. Orlando, the worst shooting team in the NBA going into the game, had a nice run in the third quarter — hitting 13 of 20 shots — but the rest of the game was a struggle.
Gordon had only five points when he nailed a 3-pointer that ignited the Magic’s fourth quarter rally. After a Vucevic layup, Gordon drilled another 3-pointer, a follow shot and capped the run with a reverse dunk. It was his most impressive offensive stretch in the young season.
“It was part of the process of getting to the open spots, being in the right place and trusting my teammates,” Gordon said. “They made great passes that allowed me to shoot the shots in rhythm.”
Julius Randle led New York with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Mitchell Robinson had 12 points, all in the first half, and Bobby Portis added 12.
The Knicks withstood Orlando’s offensive surge in the third quarter by scoring the last 10 points of the period. New York, which trailed by 15 at one point in the quarter, erased the last of that deficit when Portis hit a 3-pointer to put the Knicks up 80-79 with 8:05 left in the game.
However, there wasn’t much offense to talk about after that.
“Two things happened in the fourth quarter: we didn’t come up with loose balls and the ball stopped moving,” Knicks coach David Fizdale said. “It was a trust factor. In tight situations, you’ve got to share the ball. When the ball stops moving for us, it’s death.”
The Magic, who have struggled with their shooting in every game, entered the game last in the NBA in shooting percentage, lived down to that reputation in the first half, hitting just 15 of 45 shots. No Magic player reached double figures in the first half, but New York couldn’t make them pay for it.
The Knicks, playing without their two top point guards, Dennis Smith Jr. and Elfrid Payton, got an unexpected 12 points from Robinson in the first half, but not much else from his teammates. New York did take a 44-42 into halftime.