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Magic goes toe-to-toe with New York, comes out on top

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The way the New York Knicks shot the ball on Monday, it would take an exception effort by a visiting team to beat them. The Orlando Magic were up to the challenge and played one of their best games of the year to come away with a 107-99 victory at Madison Square Garden.

Just 24 hours after a highly disappointing home loss to Atlanta, the Magic took every punch the Knicks threw and had a few counters of their own. Both teams shot better than 50 percent from the field, but Orlando’s 52-40 advantage in the paint and connecting on 46 percent of their three point attempts proved decisive.

Nik Vucevic had a monster game for the Magic. He scored 26 points from inside and outside, while also pulling down a team-high 9 rebounds. Tobias Harris had 20 points and Evan Fournier added 16.

Lance Thomas was unconscious for the Knicks. He hit all 9 shots he took from the field, including three from behind the arc and all three free throw attempts, to lead the team with 24 points. Carmelo Anthony had 23.

The Magic closed the opening period on a 7-0 run to take a 29-21 lead.  Despite the tightness of the game, Orlando would never trail.

New York briefly cut the margin to 3 in the second quarter, but Orlando maintained a 6-9 point lead throughout the period. They led at halftime, 52-46.

Vucevic scored 12 of the Magic’s 26 third quarter points, helping them take a 78-73 lead into the fourth quarter. Shabazz Napier, in for an injured Elfrid Payton, had 5 points and four assists in the period.

“I was just trying to stay aggressive, get the best shot I could, make the bet play I could for my teammates,” said Vucevic. “They were going to me and I wanted to deliver.”

Victor Oladipo, who blamed himself for the loss to Atlanta the night before, and Fournier both scored 6 points over the final four minutes to keep Orlando in front. Thomas made his ninth, and final shot, a 3 with 15 seconds remaining, to provide the final margin.

The Magic improved to 16-12, including 7-7 on the road. Orlando welcomes the Houston Rockets to the Amway Center on Wednesday.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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