ORLANDO, Fla. (AP)—After weeks of chasing the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 seed, Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy is ready to concede that spot.
The New York Knicks left him little choice.
Al Harrington scored 27 points, Wilson Chandler had 22 and the Knicks dealt a crushing blow to Orlando’s hopes of getting the East’s second spot with a 105-95 victory over the Magic on Friday night. Orlando trails Boston by two games with three to play.
Frustrated after another poor showing against a losing team, Van Gundy said home-court advantage in the second round of the playoffs went “well out the window.”
“I know right now if we play the way we’re capable of playing, we’re capable of beating anyone,” Van Gundy said. “If we play the way we did these last two home games, there’s not a team in the league we can win a series against.”
David Lee added 20 points and 16 rebounds to help the Knicks avoid a season sweep by the Magic, who won the first three games against New York. New York played its most inspired game against Orlando this season, only it came too late.
The Knicks are already guaranteed to miss the playoffs for a fifth straight year. The only thing they are jostling for now is position in the draft lottery. The rest is just for pride.
“On national television, we were just coming out and trying to play our best,” Lee said. “We were up after three quarters like we have been almost every single game against the Magic this year. We were just able to get some stops this time.”
Hedo Turkoglu scored 24, and Dwight Howard had 16 points and 14 rebounds for Orlando. With Boston owning the tiebreaker, the Magic would need to win all their remaining games and hope the Celtics go 0-3 to finish second.
“I think we dug ourselves a hole in that matter,” Magic point guard Rafer Alston said. “We’re in a good spot for the playoffs. We’re not in the bottom. We just have to change our approach.”
Orlando continued its trend of sloppy play against losing teams.
After a home loss last week to Toronto that bounced the Magic from the East’s No. 2 spot, they needed a fourth-quarter rally to squeak by Memphis on Wednesday. The nothing-to-lose Knicks caused Orlando just as much trouble.
Quick ball movement, a smooth transition game and offensive rebounding allowed the Knicks to penetrate the paint at will.
Chandler had eight points in the third quarter, and the Knicks ran off 10 straight points to eventually go ahead 78-67 with about two minutes remaining in the period. A series of 3-pointers by Turkoglu, Courtney Lee and Anthony Johnson got the Magic within two points midway through the fourth quarter before the Knicks built another lead that was too much for Orlando to overcome.
“Just a lot of good things, just solid,” Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni said. “It’s one of the first nights we have had that for a while.”
The Magic simply allowed too many easy shots.
Lee had 13 first-half points as New York scored 30 points in the paint before the break—and 54 for the game. The Magic started to find their offensive rhythm late in the first half, with Courtney Lee making a fast-break dunk and a 3-pointer to help give Orlando a 53-51 halftime lead.
But there were few Magic highlights, and Van Gundy said he’s concerned about his team’s struggles carrying over into the playoffs.
“We’re playing awful basketball,” Van Gundy said. “There’s not going to be anything magical happening at the start of the playoffs. I’ve never been a big flip the switch guy. But that’s what our guys are trying to do now.”
The stars of the All-Star dunk competition were on display early.
Howard spun away from David Lee and finished with a backdoor alley-oop dunk on a pass from Turkoglu to cap a 9-2 run that gave the Magic a brief five-point lead. But Nate Robinson, who dethroned Howard as the dunk champ earlier this year, came roaring back.
Robinson scored the Knicks’ last eight points of the period in less than a minute to give New York a 26-25 lead. There were no dunks, though, in Robinson’s spurt. Instead, a pair of 3-pointers for the 5-foot-9 guard put the Knicks ahead.
Johnson, the Magic’s backup point guard, returned after missing two games with an abrasion on his right eye. He was inadvertently hit by Howard during a shootaround at Houston on Tuesday. … Center Mouhamed Sene was in uniform for the first time for the Knicks since the team signed him Thursday. The 7-footer was taken by the Seattle SuperSonics with the 10th pick in the 2006 draft and played in 46 NBA games before Oklahoma City waived him on Feb. 19. Sene averaged 10 points, 10.4 rebounds and 3.7 blocks per game this season for Albuquerque of the NBA Development League.