Magic stride into Knicks game on hot streak
For the second time since Dwight Howard was patrolling the low post as their star center, the Orlando Magic remain in playoff contention in the last week of February.
The Magic, with eight wins in their past 10 games, remain slightly behind eighth place in the Eastern Conference heading into Tuesday's visit to the New York Knicks.
Orlando last made the postseason in 2012 -- Howard's last with the franchise -- when it went 37-29 in the lockout-shortened season and lost in the first round. That marked Orlando's sixth straight playoff appearance, but the Magic have not won more than 35 games in a season since then.
The closest the Magic have been to eighth-place since 2012 was four games out in 2015-2016.
Orlando kept the good times rolling by rebounding nicely from Friday's last-second 110-109 loss to the Chicago Bulls with a 113-98 win at the Toronto Raptors on Sunday afternoon.
"It's that time of the year," Orlando reserve guard Terrence Ross said. "We need every win we can get. You know, we are playing for something, so it just kind of (increased) the intensity for us. It was a good road win and it was a good way to get us going."
Orlando has won four consecutive road games, all by at least 15 points. In the past 10 games, Orlando's average margin of victory is 17.3 points.
"It's exciting, it's fun and a little nerve-wracking," Magic forward Jonathan Isaac said of the playoff race.
Perhaps no Orlando player is as hot as Ross. He is averaging 19.5 points in the past 10 games, including a 28-point effort against Toronto, when he led the Magic in scoring for the fifth time in that 10-game stretch.
Another player on a roll is center Nikola Vucevic. Vucevic has seven straight double-doubles after totaling 23 points and 12 rebounds Sunday. He is averaging 20.6 points and 12.1 rebounds for the season.
The Knicks are coming off a rare win -- one that prevented them from some historical futility. New York snapped a team-record 18-game home losing streak with a 130-118 victory over the San Antonio Spurs Sunday night and avoided matching the 1993-94 Dallas Mavericks for the longest home losing streak in NBA history.
The Knicks won their first home game since beating Milwaukee in overtime on Dec. 1, and it was such big news that actor Samuel Jackson announced the results of the game at the Academy Awards ceremony, with Knicks superfan Spike Lee in the audience.
New York's 12th win featured the Knicks setting a season high for points in a regulation game and shooting 51.0 percent, marking only the fourth time they made at least 50 percent from the field. Those performances earned loud ovations from fans who continue to fill Madison Square Garden.
"The fans are amazing, in general," Knicks coach David Fizdale said. "So supportive with all the losses. The support I've been getting, the team has been getting, has been phenomenal. I commend our fans standing behind us."
The Knicks will be attempting to get consecutive wins for the second time this season. New York won three straight games from Nov. 21-25 when it beat Boston, New Orleans and Memphis.
On Sunday, Damyean Dotson led the Knicks with 27 points and hit 8 of 13 3-point attempts. Rookie Kevin Knox added 19 and 10 rebounds, while Dennis Smith Jr. totaled 19 and 13 assists. Emmanuel Mudiay contributed 19 points in his second game back from a shoulder injury.
The Knicks played without center DeAndre Jordan, who sat out with a sprained left ankle. Noah Vonleh started for Jordan but rookie Mitchell Robinson took the bulk of the minutes at center and did his best Jordan impression with 15 points, 14 rebounds and five blocked shots in 30 minutes.
Orlando has won its past four visits to New York. On Nov. 11, Orlando posted its widest margin ever in New York in a 115-89 victory.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 25, 2019