Despite missing two starters, the New York Knicks erased an early 17-point deficit to tie the Orlando Magic midway through the final quarter.
That’s when Nikola Vucevic took over.
Vucevic scored 34 points, eight straight in a decisive 10-0 fourth-quarter run, and the Magic beat the Knicks 105-100 on Sunday.
With the score tied at 85 midway through the fourth quarter, Vucevic made a short basket, a three-point play and a 3-point shot in succession to give the Magic the lead for good.
“Throughout the game I (felt) good. In the fourth quarter, I know it’s a time when we need to win a game, we needed to close the game,” Vucevic said. “So, I wanted to keep my aggressiveness and carry my team (until) the end.”
Evan Fournier had 20 points, Jonathon Simmons added 16, and Elfrid Payton had 15 for Orlando.
Michael Beasley, who replaced the injured Kristaps Porzingis in the starting lineup, led the Knicks with 21 points. Courtney Lee had 19, and Enes Kanter added 18 points and 16 rebounds.
The Knicks were also without Tim Hardaway Jr., who missed the game with a left leg injury.
“We were missing two of our big dogs and that hurt us a lot,” Beasley said. “But, we still fought.”
The Knicks used an 11-4 run to pull within three at 99-96 on Jarrett Jack’s 3-pointer with 27 seconds left. Fournier then hit two free throws with 23 seconds remaining, and Jack followed with a reverse layup with 16 seconds left.
Fournier again connected on two free throws, this time with 13 seconds left.
“We played a solid game, made some mistakes, but we held those guys to 100,” Fournier said. “Could have done better, but we are headed in the right direction.”
Beasley scored his final two points on a layup with four seconds remaining before Vucevic hit a pair of clinching free throws.
“We did well, we fought back,” Beasley added. “We dug ourselves a hole deep. The first group gotta do a lot better starting the game.”
The Knicks scored the first six points of the third quarter and took their biggest lead of the game, 57-54, on Damyean Dotson’s jumper. However, Orlando answered with its own 6-0 streak and went on to take a 78-76 lead after three quarters.
The Magic never trailed again.
“At this point, we’re trying to get as many wins as we can to hang in there with this tough stretch of our schedule,” said Magic coach Frank Vogel. “Whatever breaks we get, we’ll take. It was a good one for us.”
Watch Orlando Magic coach Frank Vogel breaks down Sunday’s victory over the Knicks, saying the team knows an improved performance on defense is how they can turn things around.
Magic: After snapping a nine-game losing streak with a 121-108 win over Oklahoma City on Nov. 29, the Magic have won two of three. … Orlando had lost seven straight road games. … The Magic lead the series with the Knicks 55-53.
Knicks: Orlando has beaten the Knicks in both meetings this season. The Magic won 112-99 in Orlando on Nov. 8.
The Knicks’ top two leading scorers, Porzingis (25.8 ppg) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (17.8 ppg) both missed Sunday’s game. Porzingis sprained his right ankle in Wednesday’s win over Miami, while Hardaway was sidelined due to a left leg injury. They were replaced in the starting lineup by Beasley and Damyean Dotson, who was making his first career start.
The Magic were 3 of 7 from 3-point range in the first quarter. They went 3 of 21 the rest of the game.
Magic: At Charlotte on Monday night.
Knicks: At Indiana on Monday night.
Nikola Vucevic Has 34 Points, Magic Beat Knicks 105-100. Evan Fournier had 20 points, Jonathon Simmons added 16, and Elfrid Payton had 15 for Orlando.