The Magic look to build on the Eastern Conference’s best record and notch their sixth straight road win Sunday night at Madison Square Garden, where the Knicks will try to snap a six-game slide at home.
Orlando (13-4) let a fourth-quarter lead slip away in a 99-98 home loss to Miami on Wednesday, and looked like it might be headed for back-to-back losses when it fell behind Atlanta by 12 at halftime Thursday.
The Magic stormed back, however, outscoring the Hawks 54-25 in the second half en route to a 93-76 win, and used a similar blueprint Saturday in Milwaukee.
Down 68-53 with 6:59 left in the third quarter, Orlando closed the period on a 20-4 run. The Magic went on to win 100-98 behind 25 points apiece from Dwight Howard(notes) and Vince Carter(notes), who had 19 in the second half after receiving four stitches for a cut lip he suffered earlier in the game.
“That’s big time, you could tell he had the fire in his eye in the fourth quarter when we really needed him,” forward Rashard Lewis(notes) said of Carter. “He stepped up big, made big shots and brought it home for us.”
Howard finished with 25 points and 20 rebounds - his second 20-20 game of the season - with 15 points in the second half after scoring 16 in the final 24 minutes in Atlanta.
“It was a war down there and luckily we just wanted it more than they did,” Howard said.
Part of the Magic’s success can be attributed to simply getting Howard more involved offensively. They’re 9-0 when he takes 11 or more shots and 4-4 when he shoots it 10 times or fewer.
Howard has 25 career 20-20 games, three of which have come against New York (3-13). Howard averaged 26.5 points, 17.5 rebounds and 4.0 blocks as the Magic won both trips to MSG last season.
This will be the first time the Knicks have seen Vince Carter in an Orlando uniform, and the eight-time All-Star has routinely enjoyed playing in New York. He’s averaged 27.3 points and 6.5 assists while shooting 55.9 percent in his last three visits to MSG, notching one of his five career triple-doubles there with New Jersey on April 16, 2007.
The Knicks have dropped six straight at home by an average of 8.6 points, most recently falling 107-105 in overtime last Sunday against Boston. They last lost seven straight at MSG from March 3-24, 2008.
A three-game road trip didn’t help put New York back in the win column this week. The Knicks lost all three, falling 128-125 in Denver on Friday despite Al Harrington(notes) delivering 41 points off the bench.
“I felt like we played hard and took a step forward,” Harrington told the NBA’s official Web site. “If we play like this against most teams we can win our fair share of games.”
Harrington, the NBA’s leading bench scorer at 20.3 points per game, averaged 17.8 points against Orlando last season.
The Magic found it more troubling to guard Nate Robinson(notes). The 5-foot-9 guard - who jumped over Howard to win the Slam Dunk contest in February - averaged 22.0 points against Orlando in 2008-09, and he’s scored 17.5 points in his last four games as he works his way back from a sprained right ankle.