The Magic and Knicks played a basketball game on Thursday and everyone expected some throwback basketball. These are two defensively minded teams with coaches in Steve Clifford and Tom Thibodeau that would rather win a game in the high 80’s than the low 120’s. However, while the Knicks philosophy has gotten them in the Eastern Conference playoff race, the Magic have spent most of this year in the cellar. A mix of injuries and poor play have doomed Orlando to eight straight losses entering the evening.
Much of the contest was a slow grind, with the Knicks leading by as many as 17, but offenses came alive in the fourth quarter with both teams trading blows as Orlando had managed to even take a brief lead in the final period. With just over 30 seconds left, the Knicks were ahead by four, and their usually solid inbound defense failed them as Evan Fournier, who led Orlando with 23 points, escaped for an open three-pointer to cut it to within one.
𝐅𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐭𝐡-𝐪𝐮𝐚𝐫𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐅𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐧𝐢𝐞𝐫@EvanFourmizz has scored 𝟭𝟑 of his 𝟐𝟑 points in the 4th. pic.twitter.com/vbYX0gSsOl
— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) March 19, 2021
This is when the game got weird. The Knicks inbounded the ball up court to Reggie Bullock and the Magic immediately trapped him. He briefly split the trap, but he lost control of the ball just long enough for Fournier to tie him up with the ball. The ref came in and called a jump ball to an irate Bullock. On the jump itself, Bullock mistimed his jump, jumping too early on a high toss, giving Fournier an easy tap back to an awaiting Nikola Vucevic. After bringing the ball across halfcourt, the Magic called timeout to draw up a play to win, down one with over 10 seconds to play.
What followed was an absolute disaster. The Magic got the ball in to Fournier and Vucevic came over to set a screen. Gibson hedged as Bullock recovered and Fournier attempted a jump pass back to Vucevic. Bullock jumped up and stole it, and as the Knicks ran the other direction — with a solid five seconds left on the clock — Fournier quizzically put his hands on his head instead of choosing to foul to keep hopes of OT alive as New York dribbled out the win.
Reggie Bullock comes up with the clutch stop and steal as the @nyknicks hang on to outlast Orlando! pic.twitter.com/9ri0g3ysQ8
— NBA (@NBA) March 19, 2021
This is now nine straight losses for the Magic and the last two have come in heartbreaking fashion. To make matters worse they were both on self-inflicted wounds late in the game. It’s one thing for the other team to just outplay them, but their own mistakes led to this, an awful loss for Orlando and a great escape for New York to keep pace in the East playoff race.