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Kevin Knox, Knicks Beat Aaron Gordon, Magic 108-103 in Eastern Conference Battle

Megan ArmstrongContributor IFebruary 27, 2019

New York Knicks forward Kevin Knox (20) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in New York, Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Kathy Willens/Associated Press

The New York Knicks came back from a 12-point deficit to defeat the Orlando Magic 108-103 at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night, marking the Knicks' second home win in a row and first multiple-game winning streak since November.

Four Magic had contributed double-digit scoring by halftime—Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac, Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier—but Gordon and Vucevic finished the game leading all scorers with 26 points. The 7-foot center also contributed 11 rebounds and six assists. 

Orlando Magic @OrlandoMagic

Have a night, @NikolaVucevic. 🌟 24 points 🌟 9 rebounds 🌟 6 assists Still one quarter to go. https://t.co/Cc4J802TP2

It was the Knicks bench, though, that ultimately prevented Orlando from holding onto the win. New York climbed within five points to end the first half but didn't hold its first lead of the game until only three minutes remained in the game. 

All five Orlando starters finished as double-digit scorers, while the highest-scoring Knicks all came from the bench. The Knicks' bench outscored the Magic's 75-7.

Undrafted rookie guard Allonzo Trier took the game by storm with 16 points in 17 minutes off the bench to lead the Knicks' late charge. Trier finished with 18 points, five rebounds, three steals and two assists. It was Trier's alley-oop lob to rookie second-round pick Mitchell Robinson that tied the game at 100.

MSG Networks @MSGNetworks

.@ISO_ZO leading the charge in this #Knicks comeback! Watch the final minutes now on MSG & https://t.co/9032j80fse! #NewYorkForever https://t.co/H07FUdRR2b

Henry Ellenson, who signed a 10-day contract in New York on Feb. 20, put up 13 points, nine rebounds, five assists and two steals.

Robinson notched a double-double (17 points and 14 rebounds), but his noteworthy contribution came in blocks—six of them.

MSG Networks @MSGNetworks

Have you ever seen a player block 3-point shots regularly like Mitchell Robinson does? #Knicks #NewYorkForever https://t.co/sWU0YGhHbm

The Knicks' future has been said to hinge on the development of No. 9 overall pick Kevin Knox, but it was the young bench that propelled New York in this game. Knox did tell the New York Post earlier this month that this season was meant to "develop us young guys."

Mitchell Robinson's Ascent Could Give Knicks Defensive Identity

Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

This season for the 13-48 Knicks, even after this gutsy win, is strictly about identifying shreds of hope for the future. Robinson is doing his part in trying to establish an identity for this team. On Monday, Robinson told Marc Berman of the New York Post that he feels he can average "around six" blocks per game. 

Robinson followed up those comments by blocking six shots the next night, and Tuesday night's performance gives him back-to-back games with at least five blocks—making him the first Knicks rookie to do so since the 1973-74 season when blocks started officially being tracked, according to Knicks PR.

Robinson is only the seventh rookie to ever record a double-double including five blocks in back-to-back games. The other six are David Robinson, Dikembe Mutombo, Shaquille O'Neal, Alonzo Mourning, Tim Duncan and Yao Ming, per NBA.com's stats department.

Many assumed New York was abandoning its game plan to build around a big man when former No. 4 overall pick Kristaps Porzingis was traded to the Dallas Mavericks on Feb. 1. But perhaps at just 20 years old, the 7'1" Robinson can allow the Knicks to build their foundation through defense and domination in the paint—opposing current NBA trends.

That said, two games is two games. The Knicks have won two games in a row, but they're still tangoing with Phoenix and Cleveland for the worst record in the league. Which is more important: winning games while young guys gain both confidence and experience or tanking for the opportunity to draft Zion Williamson?

The Knicks may want to tell Robinson to wait until next season to unleash all of this potential. They may also want to lock up Ellenson, a former first-round pick in his own right, after his 10-day expires. A 19-year-old Knox, 20-year-old Robinson, 22-year-old Ellenson, 23-year-old Trier plus Williamson?

Close your eyes tight and dream tonight, Knicks fans.

    

What's Next? 

The Knicks will host the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday, looking for their third home win in a row.

The Magic will travel back to Orlando and host the Golden State Warriors on the same day as they continue to jockey for the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference.

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