Magic rally to beat the fading Knicks

March 23, 2009 7:35:59 PM PDT
Dwight Howard had 29 points and 14 rebounds, Hedo Turkoglu led a big fourth-quarter rally, and the Orlando Magic tuned up for a showdown with Boston by beating the New York Knicks 106-102 on Monday night. Turkoglu scored 12 of his 16 points in the final period for the Magic, who lowered their magic number to one to clinch their second straight Southeast Division title. That could come Wednesday, when they host the Celtics in a game where second place in the Eastern Conference will be at stake.

Orlando is a game behind Boston for the No. 2 seed. Courtney Lee scored 22 points on some clutch free throws shooting for the Magic, who have won three in a row, the last two coming in a sweep of a home-and-home series with the Knicks.

Nate Robinson scored 19 for New York, which dropped its fifth straight in a late-season collapse after entertaining hopes of a playoff spot a week ago. The Knicks honored seven players from their past at halftime, then extended their dismal present by clinching an eighth straight losing season, tying a franchise worst.

David Lee had 14 points and 13 rebounds in his return after missing the loss Saturday in Orlando with right knee tendinitis, but the Knicks were without Larry Hughes, who left that game with an injured left big toe.

New York built an 11-point lead late in the third quarter before Turkoglu brought Orlando back. He converted a three-point play early in the fourth, then had two 3-pointers as the Magic cut it to 90-87 with 5½ minutes remaining.

Lee's drive cut it to one, Howard gave the Magic the lead with a follow dunk, and Turkoglu added another layup to give Orlando a 93-90 edge with 3:20 remaining. Quentin Richardson's 3-pointer tied it, but Rafer Alston answered with a 3 to give Orlando the lead for good at 96-93 with 2:36 to go.

Robinson converted a three-point play and Richardson hit a pair of free throws to get the Knicks with 100-99 with 13 seconds left, but Lee sank a pair from the line, and after Robinson missed a potential tying 3, Rashard Lewis added two more free throws to make it 104-99.

Lee added two more free throws after Chris Duhon's 3 cut it to two.

Howard scored 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting in the first quarter, but his teammates were just 2-of-11 and the game was tied at 24.

Howard had 20 at the half, but the Knicks led 54-50, getting a nice spark from Chris Wilcox, who had eight points in the second quarter on 4-of-5 shooting - the miss was a botched dunk that bounced back out to the foul line.

Notes: Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said rookie Danilo Gallinari was expected back in New York later Monday after returning to his native Italy for additional opinions on his ailing back. A decision on whether surgery is needed could come later this week. ... The Knicks had eight straight losing seasons from 1959-1967. ... Orlando has won 11 of the last 15 meetings.