The return of Orlando Magic point Elfrid Payton was a welcoming scene for fans at the Amway Center on Wednesday night against the New York Knicks. What was also a welcoming scene for the home faithful was the Magic jumping back into the win column.
Payton played 29 minutes in his first game back from injury, scoring 11 points and adding 11 assists in Orlando’s 112-99 victory over New York. With the victory, the Magic snap a two-game losing streak. Forward Evan Fournier got back on track and was second in scoring for Orlando with 23 points.
”It feels good,” Payton said about his return. ”That’s what I’m here for to make everybody’s job as easy as possible.”
Orlando (7-4) looked much more fluid on the offensive end with Payton running the show, as the floor general returned to the court for the first time in nearly three weeks on the shelf. The Magic were able to get much better results, with five players scoring in double figures. Amongst those also scoring in double digits was Nikola Vucevic (24 points), Aaron Gordon (21 points) and Jonathan Simmons (16 points).
“When we’re at our best, it’s with the starting unit doing what they are doing and Simmons coming in and running the show with the second unit,” Orlando coach Frank Vogel said. ”So EP has a ripple effect, putting Simmons back in his natural environment.”
New York wasn’t at full strength, however, as center Kristaps Porzingis was out due to lingering ankle and elbow injuries. Without Porzingis, the Knicks (6-5) were not the same on both ends of the court.
The Knicks started Michael Beasley in Porzingis’ place and got nowhere near the same nightly production. Beasley ended the evening with four points and four rebounds. Tim Hardaway Jr. led New York with 26 points.
Orlando will go on the road and face the Phoenix Suns on Friday night. Tip-off is slated for 9 p.m. at Talking Stick Resort Arena.