ORLANDO, Fla., March 31 (Ticker) --
The New York Knicks aren't going to the postseason. But they helped prepare the Orlando Magic for it.
The Magic survived a physical battle between Eastern Conference foes as Mike Miller and Darrell Armstrong hit consecutive
three-pointers in the closing three minutes en route to a 97-90 victory.
Perennially one of the most physical teams in the league, the Knicks showed their brawn, twice knocking Pat Garrity into the Orlando bench on three-point attempts and delivering a shot to Armstrong's mouth.
But the Magic responded, erasing a nine-point halftime deficit before Miller drained a three-pointer for a 92-88 lead with 2:22 to play. It was his only three-pointer in six tries.
NBA TV highlights from|
T-Mac scored 12 of his game-high 31 points in the third quarter.
"I was due for one," he said. "Everything I was shooting was short. I got a lot of time to get into that shot; the rotation wasn't there. I got a chance to take a dribble, I got my legs into it and it went in for me."
After Don Reid tied up Kurt Thomas on the other end and won the jump, Armstrong sank his only three-pointer in five attempts, making it 95-88 with 92 seconds remaining.
Armstrong had been hit in the mouth on Thomas' move to the basket with 5:58 left in the third quarter. He received six
stitches but returned to score five of his 13 points.
"There were a lot of guys who went down, but we all bounced back," Miller said. "It's turning into playoff basketball.
It's getting physical out there and we have to continue to take the blows and continue to play."
Garrity was sent flying twice in a 3:41 span of the second quarter, but no fouls were called. The Knicks used a 13-2 run
to close the first half and build a 50-41 lead.
"It was just a physical game," said Garrity, who had 14 points. "Every game from now on is that way. This was an emotional win because there was potential to look past this game before three days off."
Tracy McGrady had 31 points, nine rebounds and seven assists for the Magic, who won for the 10th time in 13 games and increased their lead for fourth place in the East to 1½ games over idle Charlotte.
Orlando has three days off before hosting Cleveland.
Thomas had 20 points and 13 rebounds and Shandon Anderson scored 19 points for the Knicks, who lost for the fifth time in six games and moved closer to elimination in the East.
The conference is tightly bunched, with the third through seventh seeds separated by only 3½ games. New York is 13th
"I don't really know who is going to win the East," said Knicks star Latrell Sprewell, who had 15 points. "The teams are
pretty evenly matched."
It showed Sunday.
Neither team led by more than nine points, and Orlando's biggest margin was the final score. There were 21 lead changes
and 13 ties.
After Knicks guard Charlie Ward made a driving layup to tie it at 87-87 with 4:53 left, the Magic scored 10 of the game's final 13 points.
They went three possessions without a basket before McGrady's layup with 3:51 to go gave them the lead for good. McGrady
went 12-of-23 from the field in 38 minutes.
"He is a very solid player and he is constantly improving," Knicks coach Don Chaney said of McGrady. "He does it all. He makes the team a lot better, but that is what superstars are for."
Ward's layup was the Knicks' final basket. They managed only a free throw by Ward and two from Anderson down the stretch, going 0-for-8 with a turnover in the last four-plus minutes.
"The biggest problem for us tonight was we did not knock down shots when we had opportunities," said Sprewell, whose team
shot 40.5 percent from the field (32-of-79).
Some of the shots never reached the basket, especially when Reid was on the floor. He had three of his five blocks in the last three minutes, rejecting Clarence Weatherspoon, Thomas and Sprewell.
"Don Reid was amazing," Magic coach Doc Rivers said.
"I was just trying to help out as much as I could, especially on the defensive end," said Reid, who added seven points and 11 rebounds in 26 minutes.
Miller added 15 points off the bench and Armstong chipped in 13 for Orlando, which shot just 43 percent (39-of-90) and was outrebounded 49-42.
Weatherspoon had 12 points and 13 rebounds for New York. Former Knicks center Patrick Ewing had four points and four
boards in 15 minutes off the bench.