ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — One of the biggest criticisms about the Orlando Magic this season has been that they are a finesse team that couldn’t win tough, grind it out games.
Tuesday night, they showed that there may be more layers to them than people think.
Dwight Howard had 30 points and 16 rebounds, and Jameer Nelson scored 23 of his 26 points in the second half, to help the Magic outlast the New York Knicks 116-110.
The Magic trailed 58-47 at halftime, but surged in the second half as they clamped down defensively on a Knicks team that struggled from the field.
The win was the Magic’s third straight and fifth in six games. It was also Orlando’s second win this season over the Knicks, who host the Magic twice before the end of the month.
“We played hard and we got to the point where we drew the line and we said we’re not going to let this one slip away,” said Magic reserve Quentin Richardson, who had 10 points. “We knew this was a big game we needed to win.”
The Magic reserves outscored their New York counterparts 44-11. Ryan Anderson added 16 points and J.J. Redick 12. It all helped negate big efforts from the Knicks’ new trio of Amare Stoudemire, Chauncey Billups and Carmelo Anthony.
Stoudemire and Billups led New York with 30 points apiece, followed by Anthony with 25.
New York fell to 2-2 since acquiring Anthony and Billups in a Feb. 22 trade. The Knicks finished 1-1 on the Florida swing, following its win over Miami on Sunday.
“(Howard) just opened the court up for Jameer and Anderson,” Anthony said. “A team that shoots that many 3s, they’re going to make some. In the second half they knocked them down.
“I don’t like to make excuses, but not being together on the defensive end, not practicing, not getting the repetitions … I think it gets confusing out there at times. That will come with time.”
The Knicks led 84-79 entering the final period before an 8-2 Magic spurt, capped by a basket by Richardson, closed them within 88-87 with 9:27 to play.
Orlando took a 90-88 lead on its next possession on an Anderson’s 3-pointer.
Billups was fouled on a 3-point attempt with 7:31 left and hit all three free throws to briefly put the Knicks back up 93-92. But the Magic quickly responded with five points, including a 3-pointer by Jason Richardson, to regain a 97-93 edge with 6:48 remaining.
Stoudemire completed a three-point play to close the gap to 99-96, before Nelson reeled off nine straight Magic points to put the them up 108-99 with 4:35 left.
The Knicks got within 110-106 on a pair of free throws by Billups, but did not get any closer.
There could be injury concerns for Billups as well, after he left the game with 2:13 remaining with a left thigh bruise following a collision with Howard.
New York had just eight turnovers, but shot just 37 percent for the game and 23 percent (7 for 23) from beyond the arc. They were also outrebounded 45-38.
“We’ll have to tighten up a lot of things,” Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We’ll have to get a little bit better without a doubt.”
Chris Duhon, who played double-digit minutes for the first time since mid-December for an injured Gilbert Arenas, said erasing bad habits was the key.
“Man, this was a crazy game,” he said. “(There were) 90-something free throws. I think the main thing is we didn’t turn the ball over during that stretch. That was kind of the Achilles’ heel for us the whole night. That kind of kept them in the game, free throws and turnovers.”
Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said the defense in the third quarter is what he was most proud about.
“Other than the turnovers (15) and too many fouls (27), I thought we played well,” Van Gundy said. “I didn’t think we gave them an inordinate amount of easy shots.”
In a physical first half, in which 26 fouls were called, the Knicks were the much crisper team on the offensive end as they built a 58-47 lead.
The action was fast-paced throughout and featured nine lead changes.
Orlando trailed 15-14 with just under five minutes left in the first quarter before going on a 12-0 run to go up 26-15 with 2:47 left in the period. The Magic took a 32-21 lead into the second quarter.
The Knicks responded with 21-7 run to start the second to take a 42-39 lead at the 5:56 mark and stayed on top the rest of the half.
They got some help with 4:01 remaining, when Magic forward Hedo Turkoglu was ejected after picking up his second technical foul of the game. Turkoglu was on the bench with three personal fouls and apparently said something to referee Jason Phillips.
Turkoglu played only 12 minutes, going 0 for 4 from the field, with two rebounds and two assists.
A strong second half erased all those shortcomings, though.
“I think it was a good win for us,” Howard said. “But we have to continue playing this type of basketball for us to be a championship team. We have what it takes. This is what we have to do every night. We have to battle like this and we have to stay in the battle the whole game.”
Notes: Arenas was inactive Tuesday night with a sore left knee. … With his ninth rebound in the third quarter, at 25 years and 83 days old, Howard became the youngest player in NBA history to amass 7,000 rebounds during his career. He passed Wilt Chamberlain, who was 26 years and 128 days old. …The Knicks and Magic combined to tie a Magic franchise record for most free-throw attempts in a game with 97… New York Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain was in attendance Tuesday.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)