ORLANDO, Fla. — The Knicks were down heading to the fourth quarter again, but this time there would be no stirring comeback, not with Kristaps Porzingis on the bench in a blue sports jacket, and the rest of the team on wobbly legs.
Ankle and elbow injuries sidelined Porzingis, whose 300 points over the first 10 games of the season were the most in that time in Knicks’ history. Without him, the Knicks’ offense sputtered, their defense took the night off and their three-game win streak came to end with a 112-99 loss to the Magic Wednesday night.
Looking weary as they played on consecutive nights, the Knicks turned the ball over 23 times, including 16 Orlando steals and let the Magic get any shots it wanted. Orlando made 53.8 percent of its tries overall and hit 46.8 percent (13-for-28) from three-point range.
Magic starting point guard Elfrid Payton returned after missing eight games with a hamstring injury and he pushed the pace offensively. He finished with 11 assists and was a plus-20
“They had a little more energy,” Jeff Hornacek said. “Us coming off a back-to-back, getting here 3 o’clock, 3:30 or whatever it was. They’ve been here two days waiting for this game. I thought we got a little tired. When we got a little tired that’s when we had those mental errors and turnovers.”
The Knicks (6-5) shot the ball well themselves, hitting 52.5 percent of their attempts. But all those turnovers took them out of the game.
“I think we can do a lot better job taking care of the ball,” said rookie point guard Frank Ntilikina, who had a career-high nine assists. “Our heads were not in the game as usual. Maybe because it was a back-to-back but we got to deal with it. We know we got a lot of work to do. We’ll be back.”
Tim Hardaway Jr. led the Knicks with 26 points. Doug McDermott added 13 and Courtney Lee 12. But it was obvious the Knicks missed Porzingis on both ends of the floor. He turned his ankle and banged his elbow in Tuesday’s win over the Hornets.
Three Magic players broke the 20-point mark as Nikola Vucevic finished with 24, Evan Fournier 23 and Aaron Gordon 21.
The Knicks were down 84-76 going to the fourth, where they have erased big deficits the last two games. But the Magic (7-4) extended the lead with Jonathon Simmons leading the charge. He scored 11 of his 16 in the fourth quarter.
Simmons drained a three, and attacked the basket during a stretch when he scored 11 consecutive Orlando points. The Knicks fell behind 95-82 during that run.
“He was on the attack and he had some good finishes,” Hornacek said. “He was going right through our guys and creating contact.”
Looking for a spark, Hornacek put in Willy Hernangomez, who scored eight straight Knicks’ points. But they weren’t getting stops on their end.
After Bismack Biyombo missed two free throws, the Knicks couldn’t control the defensive rebound and the Magic got the ball. The play ended with Terrence Ross hitting a three-pointer to make it 100-88.
A little later, after Hernangomez missed two from the line, the Magic came down and Fournier made an open three-pointer to give Orlando a 106-90 cushion with 4:52 remaining.
The Knicks made a little run to close to 110-99 after a Doug McDermott three-pointer with 2:22 left, but then they let Fournier drive right down the lane for an easy dunk on the next trip.
“The guys played hard, they knew they had to without KP,” Hornacek said. “We really didn’t make them work that hard defensively. But The guys, they battled. I’ve got to give them that.