Fournier and Gordon Make Impact in Return, But Magic Come Up Short in New York

by Josh Cohen

The Lead

In all four games since the All-Star break, including Thursday’s at Madison Square Garden in New York, the Orlando Magic have given themselves a chance to win with their stifling defense. Their offense, on the other hand, hasn’t been nearly as sharp, which, aside from a couple hot stretches in the second half, was the main issue in their 94-93 loss to the Knicks.

Top Performers

Key to the Magic being within striking distance down the stretch was the play of both Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier. Gordon, who had missed 17 of his last 18 games with an ankle injury, finished with 17 points, five rebounds and seven assists, while Fournier, back after a four-game absence due to a groin strain, posted a game-high 23 points, 13 in the fourth quarter.

Clutch Moments

The biggest bucket of the night came with 31.5 seconds remaining when Alec Burks, who recorded 21 points, connected on a driving floater to extend New York’s lead to four. He was fouled on the shot as well, but missed the free throw. Fournier responded with a 3-pointer on Orlando’s next possession. The game ended with two terrific defensive plays. First, Fournier caused a held ball and won the tip against Reggie Bullock. Bullock, then, answered by deflecting Fournier’s pass that was intended for Nikola Vucevic. After scooping up the loose ball, Bullock passed it to Burks, who was able to dribble the clock out.

Key Stretch

After the Magic had erased a 16-point deficit and took a five-point lead with six minutes and change left in the fourth, the Knicks rallied with a 12-2 run. Julius Randle, who notched his third triple-double of the season with 18 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high 17 assists, made two of his shots during that span, while Frank Ntilikina drained one of his three triples and Bullock sank one of his six.

Key Stat

Both teams took the same number of threes, 34. The Knicks making four more of them turned out to be significant. While they don’t take an abundance of threes, New York has shot it well from deep this season. Going into Thursday’s action, they were shooting 37.1% from downtown, 12th best in the league.

Injury Report

Terrence Ross (sore right knee), Michael Carter-Williams (non-COVID related illness), Cole Anthony (non-displaced fracture, right rib), James Ennis III (sore right calf), Markelle Fultz (torn ACL, left knee) and Jonathan Isaac (left knee rehabilitation) were out for the Magic, while Immanuel Quickley (sore left ankle), Elfrid Payton (strained right hamstring), Austin Rivers (personal reasons), Mitchell Robinson (right hand surgery), and Derrick Rose (health and safety protocols) didn’t play for the Knicks.

Quote of the Night

“It was great to have them back. Obviously two very important players for us. They both had an impact tonight. Unfortunately we missed T-Ross and MCW. It would have been great if we had those two guys as well. It would have been much easier to play with everybody (and) have much more depth. The more guys we get back, the better it will be for us.” – Vucevic, who had 17 points and 16 rebounds, on the return of Gordon and Fournier.

Up Next

The Brooklyn Nets, who have won 14 of their last 15 games, will make their one and only trip to Orlando this season on Friday at 8 p.m. The last meeting between these two teams came on Feb. 25 at Barclays Center when Kyrie Irving scored 27 points and James Harden finished with 20 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in a Nets victory. Vucevic paced the Magic with 28 points and 12 rebounds.

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