NEW YORK – Elfrid Payton's words at the podium Monday had to be sweet music to the ears of New York Knicks coaches and executives.
“We're not satisfied,” Payton said after the Knicks' 91-84 victory over the Orlando Magic on Monday.
For a franchise that has spent the most of the last two decades trying to find its way, Payton's outlook may have represented if not an organizational sea change, then certainly a noticeable difference.
As did their play.
R.J. Barrett scored 22 points and had 10 rebounds, and Julius Randle added 21 points and 17 rebounds to lead the New York to its second straight win. Payton chipped in with 12 points and rookie guard Immanuel Quickley added 11 for the Knicks, who improved to 7-8.
“Our group is learning how to win,” Randle said. “I credit that to our coaches.”
While the Knicks are taking baby steps forward, the same can't be said of the Magic. They have lost six in a row to drop to 6-8.
Nikola Vucevic had 24 points and 14 rebounds for Orlando while Aaron Gordon had 18 points and 17 rebounds and Terrence Ross 19 points.
“We gave ourselves a chance but we kind of blew it at the same time,” Ross said.
Perhaps the early start -- it was a noon tip-off -- affected both teams. New York led 47-38 after a first half in which the Knicks made only 37% of their shots and Orlando 32%.
New York’s lead grew to 68-54 after Obi Toppin’s alley-oop jam one minute into the fourth.
The Magic rallied and went ahead 81-80 when Ross’ 28-foot heave beat an expiring shot clock. The lead lasted for all of eight seconds, with Randle tying the game with a free throw.
“It's hard to win in this league,” Payton said.
On New York’s ensuing possession, Randle hit a floater during a run in which the Knicks scored nine straight points.
“We won the game with our fight,” Randle said.
Magic: The matinee marked a homecoming of sorts for Cole Anthony, the 15th overall pick in the draft. Anthony, who grew up in New York City and is the son of former Knick and current TNT analyst Greg Anthony, played his first game as a professional at Madison Square Garden. The 20-year-old entered the game averaging 10.4 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists. He finished with six points, five rebounds and one assist.
“I think it’s what he wants,” Orlando coach Steve Clifford said before the game. “He’s a confident young guy. He’s handling it well."
Knicks: Fourteen games is a small sample, but New York coach Tom Thibodeau is pleased with the play of third-year forward Kevin Knox. He came into the game shooting 43% and averaging 7.8 points coming off the bench. Knox, whoentered the season shooting 33.7% on 3-pointers, is connecting at 44.2% so far in 2020-21.
“I thought when he took good shots, he made them or they were in-and-out,” was how Thibodeau assessed Knox’s improved play. “He’s allowing the game to come to him. He put a lot of time into shooting this summer. He can do more than spot up.”
New York improved to 23-12 on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Magic: Finish a four-game road trip Wednesday at Minnesota.
Knicks: Begin a four-game West Coast road trip Thursday at Golden State.
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